Arsonists strike at Belper youth club in 'mindless' late night attack
ARSONISTS struck at a Derbyshire youth club the night before £5,000 of work to improve a music room was due to begin.
Firefighters were called to the Drop Inn, in Belper, at 10.50pm on Thursday, just hours before volunteers were due to start clearing the room for workmen.
Fire crews had to pull ceiling tiles down to prevent the flames spreading from a derelict space to the facility.
But the damage has meant electricity to the building has had to be isolated and now the youth club will have to postpone its plans until the landlord, who lives in France, can order repairs to be done.
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Andrea Fox founded the Drop Inn nearly 13 years ago to support disadvantaged young people in the town.
She has won a number of honours for her work, including being honoured at the Daily Mail Inspirational Women of the Year Awards in November.
She said: "I'm angry that someone could be so mindless to do something like this.
"I am also disappointed because this happened just the night before we were due to start clearing up to start getting the music room ready.
"It has taken away that service for so many young people in Belper.
"But I don't believe in being stopped by something like this, so as far as I am concerned that the work on the music room will still go ahead – it just might not be as soon as we wished."
In November, the Drop Inn, in Derwent Street, received £5,000 from Lloyds Banking Group Community Fund to pay for new equipment for the music room, allowing more teenagers to use the centre.
The team of volunteers beat off competition from other groups to land the prize, after polling more than 30% in a public vote organised by Lloyds.
The youth charity has helped more than 400 young people through short courses to boost their CV, with multi-media sessions held in their Jamjar music room.
And Miss Fox said, had the work started as planned yesterday, she and her group of volunteers were planning a grand opening of the new room at the end of January.
She said: "The fire started in an empty room next to the music room and things could have been a lot worse.
"One of our members just happened to be driving past at the time and saw smoke coming from the building.
"He called 999 before contacting one of our volunteers on Facebook, who called me on my mobile.
"We got down to the centre as quickly as we could.
"By the time we had cleared up and given the firefighters and police a cup of tea, it was gone 1am.
"One thing I am sure of though is that if whoever started the fire is local, we will find out who has done this."
Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service said crews spent more than 30 minutes tackling the blaze.
A spokesman said: "They used ceiling hooks to remove tiles to prevent fire from spreading before extinguishing flames.
"It is believed it was started deliberately."