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£8,500 reward for 'arson' information

By Anna_Garside  |  Posted: December 08, 2013

arson

Daniel Ritchings and the burnt out camper van

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THE owner of camper van burnt out at Emborough Pond near Wells believes it was set alight deliberately.

The Ritchings family, which owns the lake, believe this is the second arson attack on their property this year.

Fire crews from Wells, Paulton and Radstock were called out just after 9.30pm to a camper van which was on fire.

Daniel Ritchings, whose father Nigel’s camper van was burnt out last night, said: “Somebody torched it. There has been a lot of opposition from locals regarding anything we’ve done at the lake.

“We built a cabin to stay in which was burnt down in March, two weeks after retrospective planning permission was refused. That left us about £80,000 out of pocket.

“We lost our appeal against the planning decision two weeks ago. It’s as if someone thinks that gives them the right to come in and torch the place.”

The fire service contacted police because they believed the cause was suspicious and enquiries are under way.

A force spokesman said: “The fire is being treated as suspected arson. The investigation is ongoing.”

Mr Ritchings added: “We bought the property (about 20 acres including the lake and woodland) from Lady Hipsley about two years ago. She offered the property to the council and the National Trust free of charge but no one took it on. It costs around £8,000 a year to maintain the reservoir.

“People had been allowed to walk around the lake - we continued to allow access until recently because of all the hassle. It is now a private fishing lake.

“We had three boats stolen and one sunk and we have lost about £15,000 worth of tools, with diggers and other stuff stolen. Nobody has ever said anything to us directly but we have heard about complaints via the parish council and the local pub.”

Mr Ritchings said: “My father is offering an £8,500 reward for conviction of whoever is responsible for arson and theft.”

Daniel Ritchings said his dad bought the property, which cost around £100,000, for himself and his wife.

He added: “We have spent as much again on it, through maintenance and building work. If they push us out they have won.”

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