Fire guts derelict Park and Ride site in Swindon
Buy this photo » Resident Mervin Fowler at the scene of the fire at the Groundwell Park and Ride building fire
THE bus shelter at the former Park and Ride site in Groundwell has been gutted by fire.
Fire crews were called out to the blaze shortly after 2am yesterday and found the roof of the derelict building well alight.
Two appliances from Stratton and an aerial appliance from Swindon tackled the blaze, which took until 7am to extinguish.
It is not known how the fire was started, but crews who attended the scene did not log the blaze as being suspicious.
Ian Hunter, the group manager at Protection and Prevention at Wiltshire Fire and Rescue, said: “I’ve been in touch with the Fire Investigator who was called and there was no sign of break-in, the area was completely secure with metal shuttering and the fire has been put as unknown, undetermined.”
Fire officers say there was no sign of a break-in but there are holes in the perimeter fence where someone might have got on to the site.
Grandmother-of-two Tracey Bietch, of Shrewton Walk, Penhill, said she saw a mushroom cloud of smoke hovering above the area opposite her front door at 1.30am.
“The smoke was really bad. It was covering the whole area. A policeman said someone set fire to the park and ride,” she said.
“There were a lot of fire engines and police about and one policeman said that if it got any worse to ring them because the whole road would have to be evacuated.
“Before that I heard a lot of shouting.”
Jo Smithson who lives in Shrewton Walk, said the worst thing about it was the smell.
She said: “I could just smell smoke and it looked quite hazy but I couldn’t see anything.
“I can see over the fence from my window and I can see vandals getting in but that’s the trouble if you leave it like that.”
Linda Buck and her family are house-sitting in a home next to the site of the fire, but was not aware of anything happening during the night.
She said: “I did wake up and look out the window. I could hear this scraping noise, it was like bins being dragged along, but I couldn’t see anything.”
The park and ride was closed by the council in 2009 as it was a drain on resources. It has since become a destination for vandals.
Resident Keith Lock, 50, said: “There’s always kids over there. I think they should put it back as a Park and Ride. The car park was always full and people of Penhill always used the bus into town.”
Ideas for the area have failed to materialise
INDECISION over the Groundwell Road former Park and Ride has been stifling progress since the old site closed four years ago.
The service was mothballed by Swindon Council in 2009 after it was felt it was a drain on resources.
The closure saved £331,000, and attempts to revitalise the building have failed.
Calls to use the location as a new stop for public buses was welcomed at first with the introduction of the new Thamesdown Transport Service 12, which replaced the Park and Ride system.
But just months later the company was forced to withdraw the route after low numbers made it commercially unviable.
Since then, concerns over vandalism on the site have led to a series of proposals for a new use.
In 2011, an application to turn the site into a dog park failed to come to fruition, and last year, plans from local businessman Russell Stevens to transform the area into a farmers’ market stagnated.
In February, ward councillors and teenagers asked to turn the site into a skate park, but no action has been taken.
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