The Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Alderman John Smyth, says an arson attack at historic Steeple House in Antrim is a “sad day and great loss” for the area.
In a statement he said: “Early this morning we were made aware of a fire at the historic Steeple House, Antrim.
“As both Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey and as a resident of the nearby Steeple area, I’ve always been very proud of this building. As a serving Councillor of the legacy Antrim Borough Council, I have fond memories of many Council meetings held in the Chamber and offices there.
Posted by Steeple Community Association on Monday, July 1, 2019
“This is a sad day and a great loss of an historic building and well known Antrim landmark,” the mayor added.
Police had advised residents in the area to close windows whilst the blaze was dealt with.
Cllr Jim Montgomery asked anyone with knowledge about the fire to contact police.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council confirmed the cause of the blaze was arson.
The statement said: “Council received reports of a fire at Steeple House, Antrim in the early hours of this morning. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service attended the blaze and confirmed that the fire was started deliberately.
“For some time now Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council had worked to secure the future regeneration of the Steeple Site which included Steeple House, Round Tower and the protection of parkland.
“The Steeple House is a listed building and was naturally the centre-piece of the intended new plan. The Council would like to emphasise that the plan did not include approval for private housing development.
“After a lengthy process and in line with the normal governance requirements, the Council had recently agreed an option for the redevelopment of the Steeple Site. The restoration and construction work was programmed to begin in April 2021.
“The Council also agreed to reinvest the funds generated from the sale of the Cinema site, Fountain Hill, Antrim into the new Steeple Scheme.
“The Steeple Site Regeneration Plan was an innovative new model designed to bring direct benefits to the local residents including improved services and jobs.
“Plans also included improvements to the Round Tower and the protection of parkland that the local community could enjoy and that would boost both the local economy and tourism in the area.
“The Council is liaising with its insurers and following receipt of a Condition Report for the Steeple House, a report will be made to Council in due course. In the meantime, the Council will secure the site as soon as it is deemed safe by the Emergency Services.”
Mayor, Alderman Smyth added: “This new project was a promising regeneration scheme for the Antrim Area. We will work with everyone involved to ensure that we do our best to continue with the regeneration of the Steeple Site following the very sad events of today.
“We would like to thank The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service for their courageous efforts in bringing this fire under control. I would encourage anyone who has any information that can help investigate the cause of the fire, to contact the PSNI on 101 as soon as possible.”