AN alarming rise in arson attacks has prompted Halton Council to develop a new policy.

Councillors plan to demolish their properties once they become empty and no longer needed.

Vandals have torched 25 buildings across Runcorn and Widnes in the past five months and there have been 140 deliberate fires on things such as bins, the highest in Cheshire.

Halton Council leader Clr Rob Polhill said: “Halton is one of the top areas in the country for arson.

“We want to do all we can to remove the risk.

“We plan to demolish any of our buildings that become empty and are not in a good state of repair.”

Colin Heyes, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s arson reduction manager, said: “Arson costs communities heavily both in terms of the clear up costs and increases to insurance premiums.

“Deliberate fires also have the potential to threaten life. Thankfully, no-one has been hurt so far in Halton, but we fear that this may not be the case if these attacks continue.

“We will continue to work alongside our partners to bring this sort of criminal activity to an end.”

The former ICI Recreation Centre in Liverpool Road had to be bulldozed after it was set on fire. It had lain dormant for several years.

Former rugby club St Marie’s in Heath Road was destroyed in a blaze and the roof of Runcorn Boys Club in Boston Avenue was gutted in a fire.

The dilapidated Queens Hall, left empty for more than seven years, had been wrecked by vandals and torched before it was finally demolished.

Anyone with information about arson can call Cheshire Police on 101.