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Second blaze at Brighton's West Pier prompts accusations of arson

The owners of Brighton's historic West Pier have accused militant opponents of restoration plans by KSS Sport + Leisure for the two fires that have ravaged the pier.

The West Pier Trust believes some opposition groups are so angered by the proposals that they have launched an arson campaign to block them.

The Grade I-listed pier - designed by Eugenius Birch in the 1920s - was ravaged by fire last weekend, for the second time since Christmas.

Witnesses said they saw the fire start in several different places, which experts say points to a deliberate blaze.

West Pier Trust general manager Rachel Clark told the AJ that in her opinion 'the blaze was definitely man-made', adding that 'it is no coincidence that there are so many different groups opposed to our plans'. She said: 'We have no idea which group this might have been, but there are a lot of people that really hate what we want to do with the pier and don't want the reconstruction. It must have been a fanatic or an anarchist.'

Clark insisted that KSS and the trust will press ahead with the plans. 'This does not mean the end of the restoration programme, ' she said. 'We are even more determined to see our plans through'.

The Brighton Society's Selma Mitford rubbished the idea that opponents would try to burn down the pier. 'There was no one with an interest in starting the fires. It is a very odd accusation. This is probably just people who like making fire for the fun of it, ' she said.

A Sussex Police spokesman said that an investigation into the blazes had yet to be launched because the fire service has 'not got on to the pier to confirm that it is arson'.

KSS said it would not comment until the conclusions of any investigation into the cause of the fire had been made public.

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