Rough sleepers living by Peterborough’s former Toys R Us store which went up in flames

Rough sleepers have been living by Peterborough’s former Toys R Us building which went up in flames late on Monday evening, with eight fire crews battling throughout the early hours to bring it under control.

Friday, 26th April 2019, 6:08 pm
Updated Friday, 26th April 2019, 6:13 pm
A photo of the fire sent in by Toby Wood

The blaze off Bourges Boulevard could be seen from a distance, with police forced to close the road between Westfield Road and Mayor’s Walk until around 5am on the Tuesday morning when the final fire crew had left the scene.

An investigation was carried out a few hours later but failed to determine the cause of the fire. A Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said there was no evidence at the site to suggest the blaze had been started deliberately.

Firefighters had been called from as far out as Ramsey and Boston to help tackle the flames which were seen going through the roof, causing the front of the building to collapse. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

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A photo of the fire sent in by Toby Wood

The store had closed last year after Toys R Us went into administration. The site is privately owned and is expected to be sold soon.

Residents living nearby have reported seeing rough sleepers living at the former store.

Katarina Stefanova, who lives with her five-year-old daughter, said she had seen a number of people sleeping by Toys R Us, and that drug-taking was rife in the area.

She said: “I’ve been living here about 10 years. It was very quiet, but for the last two to three years has been very dangerous. I find needles in my garden.”

Photo from David Lowndes

Other issues include rubbish and rats which have been reported to the city council, she added.

A Peterborough City Council spokesperson, said: “We are aware rough sleepers have been using the former Toys R Us building off Bourges Boulevard.

“We visit every other day and each time offer support and accommodation.

“So far this has been turned down, but we will keep trying. Numbers fluctuate, but last week our outreach team visited every other day and engaged with six individuals over the course of the week.

“In the meantime, we have been working closely with the owner of the site to make them aware of their responsibilities in increasing security.”

The spokesperson said help offered to rough sleepers includes: welcoming them at the Garden House Day Centre in the Cathedral Precincts, where they can be directed to services, as well as offers of emergency and temporary accommodation and access to support services including drug and alcohol rehabilitation.

Fire crews sent to tackle the blaze were from Dogsthorpe, Stanground, Thorney, Whittlesey, Yaxley, Sawtry, Huntingdon, Ramsey, Crowland, Market Deeping and Boston, as well as the Peterborough Volunteer Fire Brigade.