Eastbourne Claremont Hotel fire among 400 heritage blazes since Notre Dame

Fires have damaged or destroyed more than 400 of the UK’s historic buildings since the devastating Notre Dame blaze in Paris exactly a year ago, analysis by a heritage safety expert shows.

Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 9:57 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th April 2020, 10:07 am

They include the Grade II listed Claremont Hotel in Eastbourne, which is still in the process of being demolished.

The hotel, which had been a part of the seafront since 1851 and sat opposite the pier, was destroyed in an enormous fire which ripped through the building on November 22, 2019.

On average, a heritage building is hit by fire once a day in the UK, according to records compiled by specialist fire risk assessor Keith Atkinson.

Claremont hotel fire. Photo by Eddie Mitchell.

He is calling for tighter laws forcing owners of all heritage assets to boost their protection measures.

Around 70 firefighters and 12 fire engines were called to the Claremont Hotel fire. Luckily, no one was harmed.

Another heritage building, the Grade II Listed Tally Ho pub in Eastbourne’s Church Street, caught ablaze on June 21 2019.

Claremont Hotel Fire Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby)

This was a much smaller fire which was put out by around 10 firefighters and only damaged around five per cent of the building, built in 1927.

Mr Atkinson is co-author of the National Database of Fires in Heritage Buildings, which lists blazes reported by the media. While it is not an exhaustive list, it is believed to be the most comprehensive resource of its kind.

He said, “If it is a modern building that burns down, although disastrous for the owners and occupiers, hopefully it is insured and is easily rebuilt – but you cannot rebuild heritage.”

He said the best way for these precious assets to be protected, especially from arsonists, was for them to be occupied and properly maintained.

Claremont Hotel Fire Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190512-101229008

And he called for more financial incentives for developers to renovate old buildings, for example grants for bringing an historic building back into use, and making renovation and essential maintenance work VAT-free.

A Government spokesperson said responsible building owners should take appropriate measures to keep empty buildings safe and secure.

“We are investing £95 million to protect, regenerate and adapt these buildings, and protecting them through our planning system,” they said.

“Fire poses a real threat to many historic places,” a spokesperson for Historic England warned.

Claremont Hotel Fire Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190512-101135008

“Historic buildings pose unique challenges – many were built before modern building regulations – but these can be mitigated with appropriate and sensitive fire prevention interventions.”

• Data reporting by Aimee Stanton