Village hall ravaged by fire

A SUFFOLK community is today coming to terms with the loss of its fire-ravaged village hall – just months after it underwent a £15,000 refurbishment. Arsonists are being hunted in connection with the blaze, which started at around 5pm yesterday in Mill Road, Cotton.

A SUFFOLK community is today coming to terms with the loss of its fire-ravaged village hall – just months after it underwent a £15,000 refurbishment.

Arsonists are being hunted in connection with the blaze, which started at around 5pm yesterday in Mill Road, Cotton.

More than a dozen firefighters were needed to deal with the incident but were unable to prevent several thousands of pounds worth of damage being caused.

It is thought the 81-year-old building will now have to be closed for several months while repairs take place.

Aidan Kendall, chairman of the village hall committee, lives just 50 yards away from the building and watched as flames tore through it.

He said: "I saw it about 15 minutes after it started. There were flames licking the rear and smoke coming from every crevice. It's particularly heartbreaking in view of the fact we've just spent £15,000 on completely refurbishing the place.

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"It's clearly going to be a matter of months before we can open again and this will involve the cancellation of several parties and functions that take place at the hall."

Although the main structure of the building has been unaffected, there is extensive smoke damage throughout and the old kitchen to the rear has been completely destroyed.

Cotton Parish Council, which normally meets at the hall, will now be forced to hold their meetings elsewhere.

Clerk Russell Gant called the blaze a "massive blow to the whole village".

Firefighters from Elmswell, Stowmarket and Eye attended the incident, while the police helicopter circled overhead in a bid to trace any culprits.

A police spokesman today confirmed the incident was being treated as arson.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call Pc Grant Critchley on 01284 774100 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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