TWO drunken youths started a fire in wheelie bins which spread to nearby town centre business premises.

The resulting blaze caused more than £10,000 worth of damage to the The Barn pub and The Oriental Delight, an upstairs Chinese restaurant and takeaway, in Consett, County Durham.

A town centre cctv operator alerted the fire service after spotting smoke billowing from the premises, in Station Road, at about 3am on Friday, August 17.

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Firefighters managed to contain the blaze, which caused structural damage to the rear of the building, having spread into a small internal lobby area.

Durham Crown Court was told that both the pub and restaurant were unable to open the following day, causing a further estimated loss of several thousand pounds in takings.

Chris Williamson, prosecuting, said the source was pinpointed to two large industrial wheelie bins at the rear of the premises.

Further CCTV examination revealed two figures in the back lane looking into the bins, pushing one against another, before smoke is seen emerging from one.

Mr Williamson said a police civilian officer recognised one of the figures as 23-year-old Wayne Buckley, who was arrested on October 10.

He initially claimed he merely threw a cigarette into one of the bins when drunk.

But, after being shown the footage, he admitted starting the fire by lighting cardboard and shoving it into one of the bins.

His co-accused, Adam Pearson, was arrested five days later and he agreed he assisted Buckley and pushed the other bin alongside.

Buckley, who is unemployed, of First Street, Crookhall, and Pearson, a 19-year-old trainee bricklayer, of Metcalfe Road, both Consett, each admitted arson.

Jim Devlin, mitigating, described it as, “drunken foolishness”, which he said was out of character as neither defendant has any previous convictions, although Buckley does have a previous reprimand and caution for damaging property.

“It was the early hours of the morning. They were drunk and it was a case of starting a fire in the bin, which they did for a laugh.

“They can’t really explain why they did it, but both are extremely ashamed.”

Recorder Alistair MacDonald said it could have had “potentially serious consequences” and, but for their lack of previous records, would have merited custodial sentences.

Both were given four-month electronically controlled home curfews, from 7pm - 7am, and Buckley must also undergo 18 months’ probation supervision.

They were each ordered to pay token compensation figures of £200.