A derelict Hastings building which has been damaged by four fires in a month contains asbestos materials, the county council has confirmed.
The former Mount Denys care home, The Ridge, Hastings, which has been vacant since 2014, was found to contain asbestos materials which have been categorised as ‘low risk’ under the building’s most recent report.
The confirmation came after East Sussex County Council, which owns the building, said it is set to be demolished.
A spokesman for the county council said: “As is the case with many old buildings, there are some asbestos-containing materials in Mount Denys, which were categorised as low risk under the building’s most recent asbestos report.
“As is standard practice, this report has been provided to our contractor, which is experienced in dealing with asbestos in old buildings, so they can arrange for the safe removal of these materials, in adherence with the strict controls and regulations which apply in such cases.
“We have carried out sample and air tests around Mount Denys to check the asbestos levels during and after the fire, which have come back clear, and we will continue to monitor the site using appropriate technical support throughout the demolition process.”
After four fires in a one month – with the latest on Thursday (May 30) – the derelict building’s condition has worsened.
The county council said a contractor has now been sent to the site to carry out preparatory work for the demolition of the building.
A spokesman added: “The building has been vacant since 2014 and its condition has been worsened by the recent fires, meaning demolishing the Mount Denys building and clearing the site is now the best option.
“We have been in touch with local residents to let them know what’s happening, apologising for any disruption and asking them to bear with us while the work is carried out.
“We are currently looking at options for the future of the site, taking into account the priorities of the community, local council and county council.”
On Friday (May 31), a day after the fourth fire, investigators began probing the cause of the blaze.
On Wednesday (June 5), a spokesman for the fire service said the caused is believed to be deliberate.
As the building is in disrepair, the investigation has been handed over to Sussex Police, according to the fire service.
A police spokesman said: “A fire at an unoccupied and derelict care home Mount Denys, The Ridge, Hastings, on May 30 has been treated as arson but an investigation has not traced any suspects.
“Anyone with information can contact the police online at https://www.sussex.police.uk/contact/af/contact-us/ or call 101, quoting serial 207 of 30/05.”
Labour Baird ward councillors Mike Turner and Warren Davies accused the county council of allowing the building to become a fire hazard by leaving it empty for five years.
In a joint statement, the two councillors said: “The closure and now the shocking series of fires on the Mount Denys site questions the commitment of the county council to keeping residents in Baird Ward and the wider community safe.
“Over the last five years East Sussex County Council could have taken earlier and appropriate action to prevent such a fire hazard...on the ever-busy Ridge.
“Warren and Mike are concerned that East Sussex County Council have neglected the well-being of those who live, work and travel along the Ridge.”
The councillors also expressed concern about the possible asbestos materials within the building.
Councillor Turner said: “I would find it incomprehensible if a building of that age did not have asbestos.”
The spokesman added: