A huge fire has destroyed outbuildings thought to be used by squatters.
The blaze ripped through three small, single-storey buildings behind the disused Lord Campbell in Alexandra Road, Aldershot, shortly before 11.30pm on Sunday.
Firefighters arrived to find flames towering over Queen Elizabeth Drive with shocked neighbours watching the drama unfold. Green Watch manager Steve Fox, who attended the fire, said 20 crew had arrived to find all three buildings fully alight. One building later collapsed
Six officers wearing breathing apparatus entered the burning buildings and extinguished the fire with water hoses and cleared the smoke using fans.
Mr Fox said: “We found drug paraphernalia, including needles, and human excrement inside, which are signs indicating that squatters were occupying them.”
A police investigation failed to reveal a definite cause of the blaze, but Mr Fox said the signs ‘pointed to arson’.
Firefighters remained at the scene until around 3.30am making the area safe.
Several councillors have commented on the number of people currently sleeping rough in Aldershot, with areas in the town centre also inhabited on occasions.
The Lord Campbell has been empty since it ceased trading in June last year.
Its licence was revoked because of concerns about the management, underage drinking and drug-taking.
Landlord Simon Porter’s lease was due to expire in February and Rushmoor development control councillors had approved plans in July 2013 to demolish the pub and convert it into flats.
Responding to a police application for a licence review a year ago, Mr Porter predicted that leaving the building empty for eight months in the event of his licence being revoked would make it a magnet for vandalism.
He argued at the time that ‘sense should prevail’ and he should be allowed to continue running the business.
Work has yet to start on demolishing the pub and replacing it with a three-storey building of six two-bedroom flats. Some councillors argued that they would have preferred to see the building converted rather than rebuilt, saying that the plans were out of keeping with the rest of the area.