Community picks up the pieces after arsonist hits Waterlooville shops

COUNTING THE COST The fire-ravaged Tesco Express
COUNTING THE COST The fire-ravaged Tesco Express
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PEOPLE in a community where shops were hit by a major fire have called for help to bring the culprit to justice.

The call comes as a Rowlands pharmacy destroyed in the blaze at Lavender Road, Waterlooville, will reopen today in a portable cabin.

PROBE Surveyors on the site of where the fire took place.  Picture: Sarah Standing (113336-5408)

PROBE Surveyors on the site of where the fire took place. Picture: Sarah Standing (113336-5408)

A demolition team has also started work dismantling the charred remains of the Tesco Express store, but Tesco bosses have not been able to give a guarantee that the store will be rebuilt.

As reported in The News, police have launched an arson investigation after a fire in the early hours of Saturday destroyed the convenience shop and pharmacy and left a neighbouring Chinese takeaway badly damaged.

Olwyn Kennedy, a long-standing councillor for the Stakes estate, said she was appalled and insisted someone must be held to account.

She said: ‘It’s an own goal. If it was a local individual they have denied the community of the facility of a convenience store and pharmacy.

‘They definitely need to catch the culprit. There’s some lovely people living in that area and it’s sad that something like this is going to have such a negative impact on their quality of life.’

Cllr Kennedy urged neighbours to contact police with any information, however insignificant it may appear to be.

Cllr Kennedy added: ‘Anyone who has any information, come forward please.

‘Certainly some people may not have any involvement but police are capable of eliminating those.

‘The more information the police have to work with, the better the chance we have of finding the culprit.’

Oliver Carter, Rowlands Pharmacy area manager, said: ‘The fire has destroyed the branch which will now have to be demolished and rebuilt. After assessing the damage, our primary concern was to reopen a replacement pharmacy as quickly as possible and ensure that our patients have access to their medication.’

The 15 staff working at Tesco are set to be redeployed to other nearby stores.

A Tesco spokeswoman said the firm could not guarantee the store will be rebuilt as it does not own the land.

‘It’s still very early days for us,’ she added. ‘We are keen to get it up and running but need to work with our landlord.’

The results of the fire investigation are expected later this week. Anyone with information should call Waterlooville CID on 101 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Elderly and vulnerable affected by shop closures

ELDERLY people living on the Stakes estate described the burning down of their local shops as a disaster.

The estate has a large proportion of disabled and vulnerable people living in sheltered accommodation who visited the Tesco Express regularly.

David Crowle, 81, of Lavender Road, said: ‘It’s a disaster as far as I’m concerned.

‘Most people are retired around here and we relied on the services it provided. It made our lives a lot easier.’

David Fahey, 84, who uses a mobility scooter, said: ‘A lot of people round here relied on that store for odds and ends.

‘I used to go and get my money from the cashpoint. It makes it very difficult for us.’

The Chinese takeaway plans to reopen as soon as possible. The car park is now surrounded by 10ft-high boarding as the demolition work begins.

It is the second Tesco in the area to burn down in just over 12 months, following the arson attack in July last year in Grassmere Way, Cowplain.

The 19-year-old culprit was jailed for 16 months after he admitted deliberately starting the fire.