WATCH: Drone footage reveals 'arson attack' damage at former Dudley school
Drone video footage reveals the damage caused to a derelict former school in the Black Country after a major blaze ripped through it.
The fire at the former Sir Gilbert Claughton School, off Blowers Green Road in Dudley, started in the early hours of Sunday morning.
A spokesman from West Midlands Fire Service said it is believed the fire was started deliberately but investigations are ongoing.
Around 80 per cent of the roof of the former Victorian school collapsed to the ground.
Aerial footage from the scene show the extent of the damage to the roof of the building.
WATCH: Drone footage reveals fire damage
Nearly 30 firefighters tackled the fire, which started just after 2am on Sunday morning.
A spokesman from West Midlands Fire Service said: "Some 80 per cent of the roof collapsed to first and ground floor levels, leaving four gable ends in a dangerous and unstable condition.
"Dudley Council were due to secure the site."
Most recently know as the Claughton Centre, the building has been derelict for several years and was set to be turned into apartments after being sold at auction for £405,000 last year.
The school was originally called the Dudley Upper Standards School when it opened in 1904 and changed name several times before becoming the Sir Gilbert Claughton School in 1957, the title honouring a late 19th century mayor of Dudley. It closed following a merger with another school to create Castle High.
Dudley Council then moved into the site and it was used as offices, a youth centre and meeting site but it has not been used by the authority for a number of years.
Dudley Council’s planning committee gave the thumbs-up for 63 homes to replace the old offices, when the building was finally demolished.
Plans were also put forward in 2016 for the Claughton Centre to be flattened for a housing development, but they were rejected because of the site’s historical interest. Most recently there was permission for 21 apartments to be built on the site.
Councillor Shaukat Ali, who represents the St Thomas’s Ward for Dudley Council, has been campaigning to get the site back in use.
He said it was “very sad” to see the building fall into ruin.
“Most recently it was used as an Afro-Caribbean youth club and centre until they moved – the site was sold at auction a few years ago and there was a planning application to convert it to apartments.”
He added: “As the building is listed – plans needed to incorporate the listed features.
“It’s really sad that someone has taken this step – the fire service believe it’s an arson attack.
“I can’t understand the reasoning why someone would do this. It will delay plans but hopefully the developers will take quick steps to remediate the site.
“I don’t know what this means for the current application. I hope they can come up with something and restore the site the best they can.”
Councillor Karen Shakespeare, cabinet member for environmental, highways and street services, said: “We received notification at 2.40am on Sunday morning of a severe fire in Blowers Green Road. The Claughton building no longer belongs to the council, having been sold by the local authority a few years ago.
“We closed the road after arriving on site to allow firefighters to deal with the blaze safely, and fenced off the building as it was unsafe.
“Security was called in to further monitor access to the site until yesterday, when the owners of the building arrived to take responsibility while the fire service continues investigations as to the cause.”
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