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Day centre plans hit by ‘devastating’ fire

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By Donald Turvill
Annan and Eskdale
Day centre plans hit by ‘devastating’ fire

WORK to tranform Annan’s old library into a day centre could face severe setbacks after a suspected deliberate blaze broke out this week.

Fire crews and police rushed to the former library on Charles Street at around 6 pm on Wednesday (December 1) after a member of the public raised the alarm.

After entering the smoke-filled building wearing breathing apparatus, firefighters extinguished the blaze and left the scene shortly before 9 pm.

Police are treating the fire as “wilful” and said enquiries are ongoing.

No casualties or injuries have been reported following the incident.

And whilst the extent of the damage is not yet known, the wooden structure remains standing.

THE DAY AFTER . . . the old library following the fire on Wednesday night

It comes less than two weeks after the old council-owned library was given to Annan Day Centre in a community asset transfer.

The charity, which currently supports older people in the town from its base in Market Hall, is attempting to raise £250,000 over the next two years to renovate the run-down library as a purpose-built day centre.

But this ambitious project could now face delays, rising costs and further complications as a result of the fire.

Annan Day Centre manager Emma Irving called the incident “absolutely devastating”.

She told the Observer yesterday: “We don’t know anything so we can’t comment on the structure of the building or the cause of the fire.

“We’re just hoping this doesn’t have a negative impact on funders and things like that. It was a big shock last night, very disappointing but we had a great response from people that live locally at the library commenting that this project needs to go ahead as quickly as possible. It was lovely to get that kind of support.

“The council have stepped forward, made contact and they’ve been great; I think we’re going to be able to work together to get through this. If it sets us back, we’ll just have to work that little bit harder.”

Emma added if the structure of the building had not survived then it would have been detrimental to the project.

“If if hadn’t have been structurally okay that would have been a major hurdle we couldn’t have crossed,” she said.

Annandale North councillor Richard Brodie said: “It’s bad news for the day centre because they’ve put a lot of time and energy into acquiring this building for the older people’s club. We don’t know the extent of the damage but hopefully it won’t be too massive.

“The council is very sympathetic towards the day centre and will hopefully help them get through this.

“Hopefully it’s just a minor setback but we’re not sure yet.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We received a report of a fire at a premises on Charles Street, Annan, around 7.05 pm on Wednesday, 1 December.

“The fire was extinguished by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and there were no reports of any injuries.

“The fire is being treated as wilful and enquiries are ongoing.

“Anyone with any information is asked to contact Police on 101 quoting incident 2892 of 1 December, 2021.”

A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson said: “We were alerted at 6.05pm on Wednesday, December 1, to reports of a fire affecting a wooden building in Charles Street, Annan.

“Operations control immediately mobilised two fire engines to the location and firefighters wearing breathing apparatus extinguished the fire.

“There were no casualties and crews left the scene after ensuring the area was made safe.”

Meanwhile, a fundraising page has been set-up by the day centre to help meet the renovation costs.

Emma said: “It’s a lot to ask of people at this time of year but if people could donate, a pound would go a long way to help this project. The quicker that we receive the funds – and we’re open to talks with funders – we would reduce the risk of this happening again.

“You just have to keep going forward, that’s just part of what these big projects do.”

To donate, visit www.bit.ly/3xKge5X.

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