There has been widespread condemnation of a fire at the site of the derelict Newtownbreda Primary School.
Police and NIFRS attended the scene of the suspicious blaze in the School Road area of Newtownbreda on Sunday evening.
The old school, which closed five years ago, was purchased by Mencap from South Eastern Education and Library Board in June with a view to a planned Children and Families’ Centre.
Mencap said that demolition was scheduled for October.
The learning disability charity praised the swift response of the emergency services.
Una Brown, Mencap’s project manager for the new centre said: “Thankfully no one needed to be evacuated as the fire was contained quickly and confined to the back of the school. While the damage to the building was not as bad as it could have been, especially on such a windy night, we need to secure the site and make a full assessment of the extent of the structural damage before we can move forward with the project.”
The planned centre will provide support and services for children, young people and adults with a learning disability.
Dr Alasdair McDonnell, the SDLP MP for the area, said the arson was “a sad example of the lengths some people will go to inflict damage on community infrastructure”.
“I hope last night’s fire won’t affect [Mencap’s] plans, or cause any difficulties for Mencap.
“I wish to acknowledge the work of the Fire Service in tackling the blaze, and would encourage anyone with information on the cause to contact the police.”
South Belfast DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt said: “It is a shame that damage has been caused to the former primary school in Newtownbreda and disgraceful that a fire appears to have been started deliberately. I would urge anyone who has any information or who has witnessed any suspicious activity in the area last night to report it to the PSNI.”
A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police would ask anyone who may have noticed any suspicious activity in the area or who has any information to contact them at Castlereagh on the non emergency number 101.”