Northern Ireland

Summit on listed building attacks

Herdman's Mill
Image caption Herdman's Mill was empty went it went on fire in July

A special summit on heritage crime has been held by the environment minister.

It follows recent fires that damaged historical buildings across Northern Ireland.

Alex Attwood called the summit in July after part of Herdman's Mill in Sion Mills, County Tyrone, was destroyed by a fire.

There have been 13 fires in listed or important historical buildings since April. There are usually only three a year.

Herdman's Mill, which dates back to famine times in Ireland, went into receivership earlier in July.

It was empty at the time of the arson attack and the summit heard that empty buildings did pose a problem.

There were also calls for bigger fines and harsher sentences for those found guilty of destroying such buildings.

Held at Hillsborough Courthouse, more than 100 people, including local emergency services, building control and conservationists, attended the summit.

Mr Attwood said there would be a follow-up summit in two month's time.

"The serious damage to a small number of built heritage properties over the last few months was a call to action," he said.

"That was the purpose of today's summit.

"It will reconvene in 55 days to review all the measures that will be taken between now and then and outline the measures to be taken forward over the next 55 months."

Chief Inspector Mark Harrison from Kent police also attended the meeting.

He has been working English Heritage to design and execute a strategy that will lead to more effective and coordinated protection of England's historic sites and buildings.

"Heritage is a finite resource," he said.

"Once it's gone it is gone. We are temporary guardians so we need to do right for future generations.

"My role at this conference will be to provide an overview of the work that we have been developing in England, and to highlight how a coordinated partnership can tackle and investigate crime and anti-social behaviour within the historic environment."

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