Fire at West Bank Park in York causes major damage to lodge

The lodge, well alight. Photograph: Carl Nickson, Eboracum Security
8 Nov 2016 @ 9.20 pm
| News

Fire has ripped through a building in West Bank Park, York, devastating volunteers who had been campaigning to turn it into a visitor’s centre.

Firefighters from York, Huntington and Acomb fire stations were called out to the fire at the old park-keeper’s lodge near the New Lane entrance to the park just after 6pm on Tuesday (November 8).

The empty building was well alight with flames leaping from the upper floors and the roof. By 7.20pm the firefighters had it under control and one of the crews was allowed to stand down.

Eye witness video interview by David Dunning of Minster FM

Fire crews on the scene. Photographs: David Dunning / Minster FM
Fire crews on the scene. Photographs: David Dunning / Minster FM
Fire crews got the blaze under control
Fire crews got the blaze under control

The blaze was spotted by a crew from Eboracum Security as they locked up the park. They alerted North Yorkshire Fire Service.

A post on the West Bank Park Facebook page thanked Carl Nickson from Eboracum Security. It said:

Our thanks to him for being on the scene and so swift to call the emergency services. It must have been very frightening.

People are sad and furious, I know, but we will pick up the pieces and come back fighting even harder to do all we can to look after our park.

Restoration plan

Jane Cullen, founder of the West Bank Park Heritage Project, outside the park-keeper's lodge in a still from the campaign video
Jane Cullen, founder of the West Bank Park Heritage Project, outside the park-keeper’s lodge in a still from the campaign video

Empty for six years, the park keeper’s lodge was set to get a new lease of life thanks to the Backhouse Project.

They plan to turn the lodge into a visitor’s centre celebrating the work of renowned York botanist James Backhouse, who lived in West Bank Park.

Also included in the plans are a cafe along the lines of the Rowntree Park Reading Cafe. The vision received backing from Sir Tim Smith, founder of the Eden Project, and Dame Judi Dench who described it as a “wonderful idea”.

An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign had already raised half of its £5,000 total.

Members of the Backhouse Project saw for themselves the devastation caused by the fire tonight. They were too upset to talk but tweeted this out:

The news was greeted with dismay on Facebook. Dale Forsdyke wrote:

I feel truly gutted for the people that have put so much hard work on the back house project contributing their time and finances trying to improve our community.

IF this was started deliberately shame on the culprits and I hope they get their retribution. I hope members of YC council look at this in light of the decision to not lock park gates at night.