Projected Islamic Centre gutted after suspected arson attack
POLICE and fire crews are combing the scene of a huge blaze which gutted a social club earmarked to become an Islamic cultural centre.
North Wales Police and North Wales Fire and Rescue Service visited the disused Shotton Lane Social Club five days after arsonists torched in order to establish whether the building was safe to enter.
The blaze broke out in the early hours of Friday, and police have confirmed they are treating the incident as suspicious.
Detective Chief Inspector Graham Talbot said: “The former social club, which remains owned by a brewery, has been secured as a crime scene and when we can commence our investigations it will be subject to forensic examination, which should help determine the cause of the fire.”
About 100 residents were evacuated from their homes over fears strong winds might spread the fire to adjacent properties.
Superintendent Dave Owens said: “Because of the windy weather the fire took hold very quickly and was difficult to bring under control. There were also compressed air cylinders in the club, which popped.
“It was very close to houses and if the wind had been blowing in another direction people could have lost their homes.”
Flintshire Muslim Cultural Society (FMCS) had been trying to raise £150,000 to buy the club – which had been closed since August – and turn it into an Islamic centre.
The plans provoked strong protests and about 100 members of right-wing group the English Defence League (EDL) marched through the streets of Shotton last month to voice their opposition.
This week community leaders condemned the ‘terrorists’ who started the blaze.
Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami said: “It is an absolutely terrible thing to happen. People could have been killed.
“This fire put many lives at risk. We now have a blackened wreck in the centre of Deeside.”
Shotton councillor Dave Evans said: “I never expected anything like this, it’s an absolute disgrace.
“Whatever people’s feelings on this issue, we have got our own terrorists here.”
Flintshire county councillor Helen Brown added: “This is absolutely devastating for those residents who had to deal with this when they were woken up to be evacuated.
“There is so much public feeling with this issue, I feel appalled it has come to this.
“I appeal for calm and no further repercussions. There are many people who feel very nervous. It’s very emotive and feelings are running high.”
FMCS chairman Monchab Ali, who has lived in Deeside for more than 20 years and who owns the Bengal Dynasty restaurant in Shotton, is understood to be looking at alternatives sites for the centre.
BNP councillor John Walker, who co-ordinated a leaflet campaign against the proposals, said local politicians should accept some of the blame.
“There has been a deafening silence from politicians over this issue and the opposition has not been listened to,” he said.
“It’s a great shame we have lost this building as it could have been turned into a proper social club.
“Everyone has lost now.”
John Bell, the Conservative Welsh Assembly candidate for Alyn and Deeside, told the Chronicle: “The perpetrators need to understand they don’t represent the people of Shotton or Wales.
“We must work to ensure that out of this a phoenix arises that will allow all sections and cultures of Shotton and the surrounding areas to meet and develop understanding and friendship.”
North Wales Police is appealing for anyone with information on the incident to call 101 if in Wales, 0845 607 1001 (Welsh line), 0845 607 1002 (English) or CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
From The Flintshire Chronicle . 10.02.11 by Mark Dowling. The headline originally read “North Wales Police to comb Shotton club for clues after suspected arson attack.”