Welles St building 'neglected' before fire
A property bought from developer David Henderson by the Christchurch council for $4.9 million has been destroyed in a suspicious fire, with neighbours claiming the building was badly neglected.
The Christchurch City Council bought Henderson's Electrolux building in Welles St in a controversial $17m bailout in 2008.
The fire, which began about 11am yesterday, gutted the 8210 square metre site and destroyed a wall of the adjacent business. Four fire trucks, a large ladder and a fire service command unit attended the blaze.
Andrews & Gilmore Panel and Paint owner Roy Andrews, who has been based at the site 25 years, said one of his staff raised the alarm when he saw smoke coming into the workshop.
He said he had had a lot of problems with youths breaking into the vacant building, and thought the fire may have been started by someone deliberately.
"I've complained to the council so many times. The council has not done anything about it."
One wall of his property is completely burned.
Fire Service assistant area commander David Berry said the fire was being treated as suspicious at this stage.
"We will know more in the morning when the fire safety investigation unit have completed their work."
Berry confirmed the building had been gutted by the fire and goods stored inside had been badly damaged.
Henderson had stored goods in the building, which he leased under his flagship company Property Ventures.
After Property Ventures went into receivership in March, receiver Grant Thornton decided to sell all the items not claimed. Henderson said he still had a few items stored inside.
There had been trouble with people trespassing at the site in the past.
"We've had break-ins and the police down there in the past."
He said there had been no trouble for the last few months, but agreed with Andrews that the fire seemed suspicious.
Andrew said the panel and paint business had switched to water-based paint a few years ago, so there was never any threat of an explosion if the fire had moved further into the workshop.
A council spokeswoman yesterday confirmed the building was council-owned. She could not comment on claims the building was neglected, but said the building was earthquake-damaged.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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