The latest in a string of arson attacks on historic buildings in Thorpe St Andrew has seen community leaders declare ‘enough is enough’.

St Andrew's Hospital is the latest derelict site to go up in smoke, with police launching an arson investigation after 42 firefighters were called to the blaze.

It follows similar incidents in Thorpe in recent years including at Pinebanks, the former Oasis centre, the Griffin pub and Thorpe Prep School.

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It has sparked further questions about the security of such derelict sites, with the former hospital site having been out of operation since 1998 and planning permission for a business park in 2016 not being brought to life.

However, a spokesman for the Lind Trust, which had previously been given the outline planning permission, insists the organisation is as frustrated as everyone about trespassing.

Norwich Evening News: Some 42 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze Some 42 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze (Image: Newsquest)

They said: "The site is very secure, it has fencing welded together to make it very durable and it is checked weekly, and subsequently it is re-boarded weekly.  

“It is broken into almost every week, unfortunately – it is a never-ending job.” 

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The fire service was called to the hospital site at 5am on Thursday and seven engines were needed at the height of the incident, with a presence at the site retained throughout the day.

Police said no one was hurt and that a cordon would remain in place as a suspected arson was investigated, with Norfolk County Council confirming the building is unsafe.

The Lind Trust spokesman added: “We have done our absolute best to secure and make the site safe.  

“It is really disappointing to know this has happened despite all of that work." 

Norwich Evening News: Onlookers watched helplessly as the historic buildings burned Onlookers watched helplessly as the historic buildings burned (Image: Newsquest)

However, the site has become known locally for a string of break-ins and arsons, while it has also been explored by interested photographers and videographers who have shared images online.

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St Andrew's Hospital was an addition to the Norfolk Lunatic Asylum which was completed in 1881 and later closed as an NHS hospital in 1998. 

Conservative county councillor for Thorpe St Andrew, Ian Mackie, said: “Developers have land banked these sites often for long periods of time which in turn leaves precious historic buildings susceptible to the elements, mindless vandalism and perhaps even deliberate destruction. 

Norwich Evening News: Thorpe councillors call for tighter controls. Pictured: Cllr Peter Berry, Cllr John Ward and Cllr Ian Mackie Thorpe councillors call for tighter controls. Pictured: Cllr Peter Berry, Cllr John Ward and Cllr Ian Mackie (Image: Ian Mackie)

“I would welcome stricter controls on managing and protecting these sites specifically the way they are secured – I believe that there is a responsibility to protect listed buildings, owners need to provide sufficient security.  

“We’ve previously lost a house of significant historical value at Pinebanks, and now this, a site of arguably national importance given it was one of the earliest asylums dating to the Victorian era.  

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“Worryingly arsonists don’t care about rough sleepers or young people who may have gone exploring. They are putting themselves and others in serious danger – people die in fires. There is also risk of fires spreading, putting nearby homes and businesses in harm's way.  

“What is really troubling the community is the relentless loss of historical features in the pursuit of development that never happens. 

Norwich Evening News: The arson attack is the latest in a string of arson in the area The arson attack is the latest in a string of arson in the area (Image: Norfolk Police)

“There are still a number of historical sites in Thorpe which are at risk, and I am urging the authorities to work with developers and landowners to tighten up their security, enough is enough!” 

A spokesman from Broadland District Council said: "The council will work alongside the police and fire service to determine the best course of action in relation to the building including ensuring that the site is secure." 

Anyone with information is urged to contact PC Ben Leach at Norfolk Constabulary on 101 or via email: quoting reference 36/74585/23. 

St Andrew's Hospital

In 1808 the ‘Act for Cetter Care and Maintenance of Lunatics’ saw a number of large asylums built around the country. 

St Andrew's Asylum, also known as the Norfolk Lunatic Asylum, is said to be one of the earliest of its kind, dating back to the Victorian era.  

Norwich Evening News: The remains of St Andrew's Hospital, pictured in 2018The remains of St Andrew's Hospital, pictured in 2018 (Image: Denise Bradley/Newsquest)

Extra buildings were added to the asylum in 1876 costing a total of £33,920, allowing the hospital to accommodate 250 more patients than the original capacity. 

During its working history the asylum went under a number of different names: Norfolk County Asylum (1814-1915), Norfolk War Hospital (1915-1919), Norfolk Mental Hospital (1919-1923), St Andrew‘s Hospital (1923 – 1998).

The south side of the site was developed into housing earlier this century and the remaining buildings are grade II listed with Heritage England.