Shotton Lane Social Club
FIRE crews are still tackling a huge blaze thought to have been started deliberately at the former Shotton Lane Social Club which led to 100 people being evacuated from their homes.
North Wales Fire and Rescue Service said properties around the fire were evacuated after the alarm was raised shortly after 4am on Friday (February 4), and residents were moved to Queensferry’s Asda store and Deeside Leisure Centre.
Firefighters from Deeside, Flint, Mold, Rhyl, Holywell and Wrexham attended the scene.
Flintshire Muslim Cultural Society (FMCS) had been trying to raise £150,000 to buy the club and turn it into an Islamic centre.
The plans provoked strong protests and about 100 members of right-wing group the English Defence League marched through the streets of Shotton last month to voice their opposition, while the British National Party has coordinated a leaflet campaign against the proposals.
Monchab Ali, chairman of the FMCS, said he was ‘very disappointed’ to hear about the blaze and would keep looking for another suitable site.
Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami said: "It is an absolutely terrible thing to happen. People could have been killed.
"This fire put many lives at risk and appears to have been started deliberately.
"We now have a blackened wreck in the centre of Deeside."
Residents were later given the all-clear to return to their homes at about 10am.
A North Wales Police spokesman said a joint fire and police investigation is under way to establish the cause of the fire. There were no reported injuries.
The Shotton Lane surgery opened late because of the evacuation, but is now running as normal.
Joe McGarry resident of neighbouring Clarence Street said: "The emergency services told us to get out of the house and we were taken to Asda, then later Deeside Leisure Centre, where the hospitality in both areas was very good.
"I was very concerned for the property – the club was like an inferno when it took hold with sparks going down the car park and thick black smoke.
"I have a wife, two sons and a daughter and it was a good job the wind was not blowing in our direction as the fire could have spread.
"We did not need the Islamic centre here, but we did not want this to happen.
"The people who did this have done what they needed to do, but I am annoyed they did this."
A Shotton Lane resident added: "At about 6am I was woken up by the police and fire brigade and told to leave my house.
"There were all these people going down the street in their pyjamas and nighties and they were taken to the Asda store.
"Me and my husband were able to stay at my daughters."
She added: "I think this has finished any plans for the club."
Shotton councillor David Evans said: "I never expected anything like this, it’s an absolute disgrace.
"Whatever people’s feelings on this issue we have got our own terrorists here. I think the situation is dead in the water."
Flintshire county councillor Helen Brown added: "This is absolutely devastating for those residents who had to deal with this when they were woke up to be evacuated.
"There is so much public feeling with this issue, I feel appalled it has now come to this.
"I appeal for calm and no further repercussions. There are many people who feel very nervous and I will be seeking full assurance the community are fully informed of any future discussions.
"It’s very emotive and feelings are running high."
She added: "I was not aware of any proposals until I was contacted by residents.
"Many have said they would like to see affordable housing in place there for the local community, others are concerned about the traffic impact and others are opposed to the centre."
A Flintshire County Council spokesman said: "We opened a rest centre at 6.30am at Deeside Leisure Centre for local people who were evacuated from their homes as a precautionary measure.
"About 30 people used the rest centre, where trained council staff provided welfare support to the evacuees.
"The rest centre was closed at 11am once the emergency services gave the all clear for people to return home."