Youth club ‘devastated’ after fire damages Burgess Hill meeting place

Firefighters at the scene this morning
Firefighters at the scene this morning

The chairman of a youth club who meet at the building damaged in a fire this morning has said the destruction is ‘devastating’ for the club.

Respect youth club is one of several community groups who use the building in Maple Drive, Leylands Park, which was partially destroyed in a fire that broke out at just before 3am this morning (Tuesday, October 18).

Alan Ranger, chairman of Respect and a member of the Burgess Hills Lions, who support the club, said: “I’m upset, as chairman of the club.

“The woman who runs the club is devastated. The Burgess Hill Lions are also upset.”

Respect has been meeting at the building, which is owned by the Nautical Training Corps, every Tuesday evening for eight years.

“What this means for the club is they no longer have a place to meet,” said Mr Ranger, who said of the club, “It is very successful, with more than 20 members attending every week and a membership of 60.”

Respect is one of the four clubs ‘adopted’ by the Burgess Hill Lions, which is why the Lions invested £14,000 into the building five years ago.

“The building was not in a good condition,” Mr Ranger said.

The funding allowed the installation of disabled toilets, a new kitchen and a storage area.

“That has all been lost,” he said.

The building, which was leased to the Nautical Training Corps by Mid Sussex District Council until 2022, was also used regularly by other groups including the Nautical Training Corps and a dog training group,

Around 60 per cent of the building was destroyed in the blaze, a West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson confirmed.

Mr Ranger said he was already looking for an alternative venue for the youth club to meet.

“The problem is that we need storage space,” he said. “I’m not aware of any venues locally.

“The children walk to the club, they are all local, all from the Leylands ward.”

He invites any members of the public who might know of an appropriate venue to get in touch with the Burgess Hill Lions.

First Officer Ann Tyrrell of the NTC said of the consequences of the fire: “My concern is that it is going to affect a lot of people and a lot of children in the area.”

Sussex Police said there were no reported injuries from the blaze this morning, adding: “The cause of the fire has yet to be determined.

“It is currently being treated as unexplained.”

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