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Maidstone fires latest: Our reporter from the scene

A man has been arrested after a fire destroyed a bookshop in the middle of Maidstone in Kent overnight.

The blaze at "The Works" on Week Street also affected four other neighbouring stores. It is thought the pedestrianised area outside the shops will have to remain closed for at least 48 hours. Our reporter David Johns sent this from the scene.

Maidstone town centre fires reaction: The council's Emergency Planning Manager

The emergency services are still dealing with the aftermath of the two fires in the centre of Maidstone on Sunday. Firefighters are expected to remain at the scene for some time.

Access has been closed off to the roads where the fire-damaged buildings are located. However, that means other businesses - untouched by the flames - also have to remain closed for safety reasons, while the area surrounding the affected buildings is made secure.

David Harrison, the Emergency Planning Manager for Maidstone Borough Council, said that closing off part of Week Street from the junction with the HSBC bank to Fremlin Walk was necessary to ensure public safety.


Maidstone town centre fires reaction: The stallholder

Stallholder Kris van Haeften turned up to set up his fruit and vegetable stall in the centre of Maidstone this morning, only to find diversions and road closures near his pitch because of the fires overnight. He is worried that the closures could lead shoppers to head elsewhere in Kent.

Hunt for arsonist after Maidstone town centre fires

An arsonist is believed to be responsible for a series of fires in a town centre including at a book shop. Firefighters were first called to reports that five cars had been set alight in two streets in Maidstone, Kent, at 1.16am today.

Then at 2.11am, fire crews were scrambled to The Works bookstore in Week Street, where a blaze had spread to three adjoining shops.

A Kent Police spokesman said: "Police inquiries into the incidents, which are being treated as suspicious, are ongoing."

A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said crews wearing breathing apparatus searched the shop and police evacuated neighbouring properties.

He said: "Firefighters have made good progress in tackling this very large fire which has affected four shops in Week Street, Maidstone.

"Fifteen crews were at the scene at the height of the fire, but by 6am this was reduced to six. They have been using breathing apparatus, 10 main jets and two aerial appliances.

"There are no casualties reported. Properties in the area have been evacuated and Maidstone High Street and Week Street are currently closed."


Crews tackle major fire in Maidstone

Crews tackling a fire in Week Street in Maidstone Credit: SECAmb HART

More than fifty firefighters have been at a fire on Maidstone High Street.

It broke out at a bookshop on Week Street early this morning. Buildings were evacuated and surrounding roads closed. The number of crew has now been scaled back - but some could remain for the next few days.

Crews tackling a fire in Week Street in Maidstone Credit: SECAmb HART

Drivers warned of delays following fires

Motorists are being advised of significant disruption around Maidstone town centre this morning following a number of fires.

Kent Police was called at 1.16am to reports that five cars had been set alight in the Buckland Road and Somerfield Road area of the town.

Then at 2.11am it was reported that The Works bookstore in Week Street, Maidstone, was on fire and that it had spread to adjoining properties.

Firefighters from Kent Fire and Rescue Service are currently at the scene of the Week Street fire.

Police enquiries into the incidents, which are being treated as suspicious, are on-going.

Inquiry begins into plans to build homes on ancient woodland

Campaigners turned out in force today for the start of test-case planning inquiry into controversial plans to build five hundred homes close to woodland that is centuries old.

They say development of the site off Hermitage Lane at Allington in Maidstone would destroy ancient woodland known as Bluebell Wood.

But developers say it does not qualify as 'ancient' woodland and the plans should go ahead.

The outcome could affect the future of dozens of other woodland sites. John Ryall reports.

Civic pride and patriotism in Kent's county town

Troops from 36 Engineer Regiment have been marching through Maidstone exercising their Freedom of the Borough. Some of the soldiers have recently come back from Nepal. And as Andrea Thomas reports many of the troops still have one eye on the relief efforts in the country. She spoke to Lt Col Richard Walker, the Commanding Officer of the regiment and Mayor of Maidstone, Daniel Moriarty.

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