Bedford Hospital ‘North Wing’ fire – was Shires House secure enough?

Jon Pauling Bedford Hospital 'North Wing' fire6
The derelict North Wing Bedford Hospital buildings could be transformed into a modern mental health in-patient facility Image: Jon Pauling

Questions have been raised about the level of security put in place by NHS Property Services at Shires Houses, with people saying the fire was “only a matter of time” and that “more could have been done” to make sure the building was safe and secure.

Bedfordians have reacted strongly about the fire, saying the building should have either been restored or had better security to prevent people entering the derelict site.

Local residents who had come out of their homes to watch the fire told the Bedford Independent that Shires House was known to be used by squatters and “kids were always messing around” in the abandoned building.

Another later commented that cars in the car park there were regularly damaged by youths they believe had been ‘playing’ in Shires House.

Bedfordshire Police have now issued a witness appeal and have stepped up their presence in the area, saying they believe that the fire was started deliberately.

Superintendent Jim Lunn said: “At the moment we are treating this as deliberate. We are keen to find out why this happened and who is responsible, so I’d urge anyone who has information to come forward.”

Read: Police say Bedford ‘North Wing’ fire may have been arson

NHS Property Services who own Shires House have confirmed they are working with Bedfordshire Police to support their investigation to determine the cause of the fire.

When asked about the security on the site, a spokesperson said: “Since 2015 additional security measures have been in place which include a motion detection system that is remotely monitored by our security company.

“Activations are escalated accordingly which can include Police notification. There have been repeated triggers of the motion detection system over recent years and a number of incidents have been reported relating to the building.

“We are extremely grateful to Bedford Fire & Rescue services for their continued efforts at Shires House. Our priority now is to ensure that our partner organisations are able to access adjoining buildings safely. The cause of the fire is subject to investigation.”