Building work on two new houses in Whetstone Road started two months ago and had been heralded as a new start for residents who have long been unhappy with the state of their homes.

But the regeneration programme received a set back when arsonists set fire to them overnight on Monday.

Rushmoor firefighters were called to the blaze at 12.04am only to find more work when they arrived as the braven firebugs had set fire to a derelict house at the other end of the road. They fought for two hours to get the fires under control.

Angry residents said the incident was the latest in a spate of arson attacks on the Pyestock estate in recent weeks.

They said youths have been terrorising the area by setting light to fences, rubbish bins and people's gardens.

One woman, who said she was due to move into one of the new houses that was attacked, said: "Last night was beyond a joke, our children are petrified."

Police questioned witnesses at the scene on Tuesday morning and then arrested a man in Brownsover Fields. He has been bailed pending further inquiries.

Sub Officer Glen Smeeth, of Rushmoor fire station, said: "The two fires were started within 50 minutes of each other. Although we have no idea who started them, there have been growing problems in the Whetstone Road area over the past month."

Last week, Leading Firefighter Gary Pesquero said Rushmoor fire station crews are being to called to the area several times a week to deal with fire alerts, and on one evening they had received four false alarms from a mobile phone caller.

Rushmoor Fire Service have now threatened to have the mobile phone cut off.

This is the first time the new housing development has been the target of their antics.

The development will create 200 new homes for residents in the Whetstone road area.

Martin Nurse, chief executive of Sentinel Housing which is building the development, said: "We are very angry at this attack on the community as we were anticipating the new homes to be ready for September. This will delay the housing of people who have been waiting so long to move into their new homes."

Site Manager, John House, said: "I'm just glad the fire service came so quickly or the fire could have spread to all four houses under construction. If ever I got my hands on them I'd string them up."

Mr House estimated the cost of the damage will be around £20,000, and that this could be even higher if the base of the houses has been damaged.

He added: "I'm waiting for a structural engineer to tell us what work needs to be redone, but this will set us back at least one month, and we are on a very tight programme as it is. We can't move on to phase two until these houses are done."

Mr House said there would now be night security officers employed to protect the construction site.

Many of the residents living near the Whetstone Road and Brownsover Fields area say they know who the culprits are but they are afraid of the repercussions if they name those responsible.

One said: "This will keep happening until they evict them. This is the council's fault, they knew this was going on for ages but they never did anything."

Another said: "What are they getting out of it, why are they doing it? They just ruin everything for everyone else just to have a bit of a thrill."

Det Con John Gilliland, of Aldershot CID, said: "We have reason to believe the two fires were started by the same person, and would ask anyone with any information to come forward. They can speak to us anonymously, or to me in full confidence."

Contact Det Con Gilliland at Aldershot police station on 0845 0454545.