A BLAZE that tore through a historic cottage is being investigated as a possible arson attack.
Fire investigators and sniffer dogs yesterday scoured through the charred remains of Eastleigh Cottages, off Bartons Road in Havant.
The large blaze broke out in the early hours and was tackled by 25 firefighters from Havant, Emsworth, Portchester, Cosham and Southsea.
The flint cottage, which was not listed but dated back to Victorian times, was severely damaged and the road was closed while firefighters dealt with the blaze.
The site, which includes some more modern buildings nearby, had been fenced off to make way for a 55-home development.
All the buildings, including the historic cottage, were due to be demolished to allow for the new estate to be built.
The buildings next door were once used as dog kennels.
Yesterday a policeman stood watch over the site as fire investigators looked for evidence.
Dog walker Richard Boryer, 53, from West Leigh, went to look at the damage.
He said: ‘It’s a shame – it’s a nice old cottage and must be nearly 100 years old.
‘It was one of the last ones left in this area.’
Neighbour Gavin McKenzie, 56, said he had not heard anything during the night.
He said he was not shocked by the fire.
‘It’s empty, people get in and like to set fire to things,’ he said.
He said a family had been living at cottage, but had moved out recently.
The development, near Havant Garden Centre, was approved earlier this year by both Havant and East Hampshire councils as the site straddles the border of the two districts.
A conservation consultant said the flint cottages made a ‘positive contribution’ to the area, but councillors agreed the buildings could be bulldozed.
Councillor David Keast, who sat on the planning committee that approved the development, said it was a shame to lose buildings that had ‘merit’.
A police spokesman said the incident was being investigated as a possible suspicious fire.