Arsonists set fire to tennis clubhouse

Fire at Horley Lawn Tennis Club SUS-140630-110718002
Fire at Horley Lawn Tennis Club SUS-140630-110718002

Four years of fundraising went up in smoke when arsonists set fire to a newly built clubhouse five weeks before it was due to be completed.

Members of the Horley Lawn Tennis Club, who had raised £250,000 to build the clubhouse, were left counting the cost after the fire tore through the building in Vicarage Lane on June 22.

Firefighters were called at 2.30am and fought the blaze until just after 4am.

Chairman Pamela Akehurst said: “We’re all absolutely devastated by what happened. It’s put us back but it won’t stop us.”

Builders had been on the site since April, demolishing the old building and erecting a new one.

The work was able to go ahead thanks to the generosity of members of the community as well as a £50,000 grant from Sport England and £3,000 from Gatwick Airport Community Trust.

Pamela was at a loss to understand why the club was targeted.

She said: “We have done no harm to anybody. We are a charitable organisation and we work so hard for the community. Thank God no one was in the building.”

Surrey Police is investigating whether the fire is linked to two other arsons at sports clubs in the Reigate area.

The first fire was started at Churchfields Bowls Club, Reigate at around 2.30am on Thursday (June 26), while the second was at the Old Reigatian Rugby Club at 4am on Saturday (June 28).

Detective Sergeant Stuart Underwood, from Reigate CID, said: “I would like to reassure local residents that we are taking these matters extremely seriously and we will have additional patrols and an increased policing presence in the local area.

“I would advise all local sports clubs and community groups, and residents who live close to them, to be on their guard and report any suspicious activity to police immediately. I would also urge anyone who has information about any of these fires to contact us.”

Pamela said: “I feel very disappointed in the people that did this. If these fires are connected, if they are linked, they need catching.”

Witnesses should call Surrey Police on 101 quoting reference P14186283.