Doncaster fire: 'The building has always attracted kids at night'

It was once a successful school for pupils who had been excluded from mainstream education in Doncaster.

Sunday, 11th April 2021, 12:06 pm

But today, the Cusworth Centre is a devastated shell, with little left to see other than the metal frame of the building which was once housed a school praised by Ofsted as ‘good’.

Although the main fire was out, fire crews remained on the site damping down for hours. They were also due to investigate the cause of the fire.

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The scene of devastated at the former Cusworth Centre

The smell of smoke still remained at the wrecked site, on Cusworth Lane, Cusworth, as firefighters carried on with their work on the site after spending all night at the former school, after being called out at 2am after neighbours had seen the flames. As well as fire engines and a number of remaining fire fighters, a Doncaster Council van could also be seen next to the site.

The building, formerly a pupil referral unit which was described as good in its most recent inspection, back in 2013, had not been used for several years. The old unit had been praised for helping its pupils overcome significant barriers to their learning and make good progress in reading, writing and mathematics.

But it was closed down following a re-organisation of education for excluded pupils in the borough, and was subsequently sold in an auction just seven months ago. Neighbours living near the site say youths were frequently seen at the disused site in more recent years.

Described by auctioneers Pugh’s as a former school premises, requiring extensive refurbishment with potential for redevelopment, it fetched £629,000 at auction last September.

Cusworth Centre fire. Photo: Norman Tyrer

Last night’s blaze broke out in the early hours of the morning.

One nearby resident, who asked not to be named, told how he was shocked to see the blue lights of the emergency services in the early hours of the morning, and was concerned it could have been arson.

He said: “I was awoken at 3am by blue lights at the front of our house.

"I assumed it was an ambulance. It wasn’t, it was a fire engine but there was no fire. I went to the back of the house to see another fire engine fighting a blaze at the Cusworth Centre which borders our garden.

"The whole building was alight. We watched for about half an hour as the flames continued to eat through the building and huge plumes of steam rose and blew away before we went back to bed.

“I’ve awoken at 6am this morning and they were still fighting it. By 7am the building was just a charred frame.

“Between the gaps in the steam you can see there’s not much left.

“The building has always attracted local kids at night. Is this an accident? Another arson attack?”

Four fire crews were tackling the fire at one stage and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue service was advising residents to keep windows closed.

A spokesman said: “The cause of the fire is not yet known. A fire investigation will take place once it is out.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.