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Arsonists hit tower block

George Wimpey development to be demolished after fire causes irreparable damage to superstructure

GEORGE Wimpey will have to demolish and rebuild part of a £30 million housing development in Reading after arsonists burnt down a tower block under construction.

Thames Valley police have arrested four teenagers following the blaze, which gutted part of the Pembroke Grange development in the Caversham area of the town.

A Wimpey spokeswoman said: 'The damaged block was part of a much larger 10-block development in Reading.

'It was the third block that was hit by the arson attack.All the bricks were up and the scaffolding was still there so the superstructure was pretty much in place.

'It has been badly damaged, so we will now be demolishing that block and rebuilding it.

'None of those units had been sold and we will be looking to claim on our insurance.

'We don't really know the reasons behind it and there have been no other incidents or any trouble on that job.'

Police said three males aged 14, 15 and 18 had been arrested on the day after the fire and a fourth aged 17 was arrested a day later.

DC Nick Hankinson of Reading CID said:

'Despite these arrests I still require any information from anyone who may have seen any suspicious people or activity in the area around the time of the fire.'

Wimpey is acting as main contractor on the job and has a team of specialists building 10 blocks containing 160 flats for private sale, worth an average of £180,000, and 50 social units.

A fire brigade spokesman said that firefighters could only tackle the blaze from the outside as it was too dangerous to go inside after the floors collapsed.

The Wimpey spokeswoman said demolition contractors would be on site shortly and the charred shell of the block would be torn down within the next two weeks.

No one was injured during the blaze but neighbouring homes were evacuated because firefighters were worried about gas canisters on other parts of the site exploding.