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CITY HOMES DREAM IS TORCHED AGAIN; Heartbreak as housing for needy is left in ashes.

Byline: By LUKE TRAYNOR

ARSONISTS destroyed a ground-breaking charity housing project today before it was built.

A security guard patrolling the site in Kingsley Road, Toxteth, was attacked by up to five men in the early hours.

He was pinned to the floor and attacked while the rest of the gang rampaged through three partially-built houses, dousing them in petrol and setting them ablaze.

Today, the pounds 1.9m scheme to provide affordable housing for people who struggle to get mortagages was in tatters, as the timber frames of the houses were razed to the ground.

Staff estimated the arsonists could have caused up to pounds 50,000 damage.

Police sealed off the area off Parliament Street, as they hunted for clues.

The site was targeted by arsonists in February when thousands of pounds of safety equipment was torched.

The security guard, believed to be in his 20s, was taken to hospital with chest and back injuries and discharged. He was due to give a statement to detectives.

The Somalian was said to speak little English, but gave an account of his ordeal through an interpreter.

The charity project, Habitat for Humanity, was set up to create 32 homes on land donated by the Catholic church.

Board member Felicity Wren said: "I'm so shocked. Why would anyone want to do this.

"I cannot understand people who want to cause so much destruction. It is sickening.

"We are trying to help people who would not normally be able to afford a mortage.

"These people will not beat us. We want to get the site cleared and new frames up.

"Three families all with young children have yet to be told their homes have been burnt down."

Construction manager Graham Hughes, who has been on site since January, was in tears as he said: "I cannot explain how I felt the moment I arrived at the site. I was just totally overcome by emotion.

Father Peter Morgan, priest at the neighbouring St Bernard's RC church, said: "I was going to say Mass when I saw the place had been completely gutted.

"These are people with no heart and absolutely no concern for the local community. This is total selfishness."

Alan Mountfield, watch manager from Toxteth fire station, said: "When we arrived, the block of houses were burning from end to end. There is little left other than a big pile of ashes.

"We condemn this kind of cruel and deliberate attack."

A police spokeswoman said: "This is being treated as a suspicious ignition."

The new houses were due to cost pounds 92, 000-pounds 97,000 each. Successful applicants will have to meet strict criteria and take out a minimum pounds 40,000 mortgage.

luketraynor@liverpoolecho.co.uk

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TEARS: Local priest Fr Peter Morgan comforts board member Felicity Wren as the housing project, inset, lies in ashes
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 11, 2006
Words:476
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