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Arson in Arborfield: caravan is third blaze in less than a year

The caravan, on February 8, 2021. Picture: Brian Alexander.

A councillor is calling on Wokingham Borough Council to take action after a caravan was set alight in Arborfield, blocking access to a nearby estate.

In the early hours of Sunday, February 7, a trailer was reported on fire near Bound Oak Industrial Estate, adjacent to the A327.

The Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) said it received word of the incident at 12.06am. Crews from Wokingham and Whitley Wood were sent to the scene, and two firefighters extinguished the blaze.

According to Gary Cowan, ward councillor for Arborfield, this is the third time vehicles have been discarded near Bound Oak Industrial Estate in the past two months.

The other two vehicles were discarded on a public byway in the area, and were removed by the borough council.

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Caravan on fire in July 2019. Picture Gary Cowan

He said it was also the second caravan discovered on fire in less than two years, after a trailer containing gas canisters was set ablaze on the site in July 2019.

Brian Alexander, owner of Roktops Worksurfaces in Bound Oak Industrial Estate, said these types of incidents occur often and have a huge impact on businesses in the area.

“We’ve had issues like this before, with this being the third vehicle on the scene recently,” he said.

“With coronavirus and the freezing weather, this was one more thing we could have done without.

“I literally could not get into work, and we had vehicles and deliveries arriving.”

Mr Alexander and his team had to move the caravan on the Sunday, February 8 to regain access to the industrial estate, before it was then picked up by Wokingham Borough Council the following day.

He said Bound Oak Industrial Estate is a popular area for fly-tipping, and has seen people leave rubble and general waste on the site too.

Now, Cllr Cowan is calling on Wokingham Borough Council to reinstate visible CCTV in a bid to prevent future fires, after a nearby camera was removed in June last year.

“I worked with residents to get the council to place a visible CCTV camera on one of the lampposts in January 2020, and once that happened the vandalism came to a grinding halt,” the councillor explained. “But six months later, the council took the camera down saying it was due to cost.”

Cllr Cowan said the council claims there is covert CCTV on site, but he is “not convinced”.

“The council is running a whole campaign about stopping fly tipping, but the reality is that CCTV is vital to catching people,” he added.

Without a visible camera, Cllr Cowan is concerned that the site is becoming popular for fly tipping and arson, and could be putting local residents and the fire service at risk.

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A car was abandoned after being set on fire in January 2021. Picture Gary Cowan

Cllr Parry Batth, executive member for environment and leisure, reaffirmed the council has a “zero-tolerance approach” to fly-tipping.

“[It is] an illegal activity that blights our borough,” he said.

According to Cllr Batth, Wokingham Borough Council continued to monitor “hot-spot” areas and is using CCTV to take legal action against fly-tipping where necessary.

He said the council received a report of the abandoned vehicle in Arborfield on Monday, February 8 and cleared it on Tuesday, February 9.

“There are cameras operating within the area but it is very difficult for our cameras to cover the whole area,” Cllr Batth explained.

“We have put measures in place within the area of Bound Oak Industrial Estate and Poperinghe Way to discourage fly tipping and other antisocial behaviour.”

This includes earth bunds, which are built up banks of soil.

He said Wokingham Borough Council is looking to purchase more mobile cameras in the future.

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