Factory fire: hunt for arsonists continues

Tesco hs applied for formal permission to demolish a building that was gutted by arsonists during a major fire .

The former Thorntons factory building in Derwent Street was torched at the beginning of May, spraying harmful asbestos across Belper in a blaze which saw huge plumes of smoke billowing across the town.

Work to dismantle the remaing shell was started a few days after the fire, after council chiefs waived normal planning procedures because of the immediate risk to health and safety.

However, retail giant Tesco has now insisted in following the planning rules and has lodged a formal application with Amber Valley Borough Council for permission to knock down the scorched building.

Derek Stafford, assistant director of planning and regeneration at the borough council, said: “In order to deal with health and safety issues we agreed to demolish the building rather than going through the planning process.

“It was not a typical situation and we couldn’t afford to wait for the planning process to run its course for health and safety reasons. The main concern was to deal with the contamination issue.

“They were quite clear they wanted togo through the process and have lodged an application.”

Tesco contractors completed the demolition of the fire-damaged building containing asbestos on May 29.

The other buildings on the site, which were not involved in the recent fire, will have asbestos removed before they are also demolished.

Eye witnesses reported a horrific bang as a large explosion went off in the former Thorntons factory building.

Derbyshire Police confirmed this week that a 19-year-old who was arrested and questioned following the blaze had been released without charge.

A spokesman said that inquiries into the fire were on-going.

No-one has yet been charged over the blaze which prompted a huge response from firefighters , paramedics and police who raced to the scene at around 3.30pm on May 10.

Workers at nearby homes and businesses reported health complaints such headaches and breathing problems following the fire.

The site belongs to Tesco, who confirmed they had ditched plans to build a megastore there in April.