City employee charged with arson at London’s Lawn Tennis Club

A City of London employee has been charged with “admission of arson with intent to endanger life” in connection with a fire at a local golf course clubhouse last year meant to serve as a resource for the area’s homeless.

The employee, who was not named in court, is accused of starting the fire at Lawn Tennis Club in late October 2017, according to a statement by the Crown Prosecution Service. The man in question, who has since been fired from his position as a 26-year employee of the City of London Corporation, is accused of starting the fire after breaking into the clubhouse, using a small amount of fuel to start a fire in a fireplace and lighting lighter fluid on a mound of planks and scrap metal in the middle of the building. The main floor of the clubhouse was damaged, and fire officials said an estimated $2.5 million in damage was done to the building.

Firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading, though it caused extensive damage to the building. It was later concluded that the man behind the fire was a man known to staff at the Club.

The man was arrested on Thursday in connection with the arson, which was first revealed last summer when the British tabloid press reported on the fire, which led to a wave of copycat fires at buildings across the U.K. Over the past several months, it has been determined that the fires were done by homeless individuals acting to communicate a message to authorities. It was not immediately clear if the man charged in the case had taken part in these fires.

The criminal allegations against the man come after years of controversy over the construction of the Lawn Tennis Club, a public and private property that includes the new three-story clubhouse that the man is charged with lighting a fire in. Much of the construction was completed by the private contractor for the City of London, including landscaping work that included covering large areas of open space with industrial-grade plastic.

At a time when the City of London, London’s financial district, is facing severe housing shortages, the construction of the new clubhouse has led to criticism from the local community. The Borough of Chelsea, which includes the Lawn Tennis Club, has a rough record of homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk outside the facility. According to a 2017 report from The Evening Standard, the borough holds hundreds of complaints about various nuisances, including stray dogs, litter and people sleeping and urinating on the street outside the Tennis Club. Since the Club opened its doors, the borough has responded with a series of strict rules that dictate who can use the facility: visitors and residents of the City of London must possess a parking permit, and must then sign-in to the Club, unless they fall within a single-occupancy permit category.

A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said that the Crown Prosecution Service will not be commenting on the case, while a spokeswoman for the City of London Corporation did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Read the full story at The Evening Standard.


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