A SUSPECTED arson attack left a town devastated at the loss of a sports facility– on a day that should be a highlight of the year for residents.

The pavilion at Spennymoor Cricket Club was completely destroyed by the blaze yesterday, hours after the town hosted its 63rd town gala.

A Durham police spokesperson has tody confirmed that the incident is being treated as arson, not endangering life.

He added: "We were called to the scene about 8.20pm.

"An unknown suspect entered the cricket ground as a trespasser and by unknown means set alight the clubhouse of the cricket club.

"The entire clubhouse was damaged by fire as a result."

The club's president, Spennymoor Town Councillor Ian Geldard, said: "What was supposed to be Spennymoor's happiest day of the year has ended in heartbreak for those involved with Spennymoor Cricket Club this evening.

"As President of the club, I attended the site as the fire officers were finishing putting out the fire. Unfortunately there is nothing left.

"I have just left the site. The police are sitting in overnight to conclude an investigation into the trespass of the ground in the morning. The fire investigation has concluded that this is a deliberate act."

He has spoken to town clerk Katherine Hierons to arrange a meeting on Monday to discuss insurance and temporary arrangements.

He added: "A few of us have shed a tear tonight for the club as we knew it. Years of memories destroyed in seconds, but despite that, all we have lost tonight is a building.

"We're all still here, we will rise from the ashes, and we will rebuild stronger than ever.

"Can I thank each and everyone who has offered their support to us tonight. It means a lot, and we will be in touch as soon as we can to organise our rebuilding effort."

Councillor Kevin Thompson, spokesperson for the majority group on Spennymoor Town Council, which owns the site and leases it to the club, said: “Spennymoor Town Council has been left devastated by the loss of Spennymoor Cricket Club's pavilion due to a fire.

“The Council knows only too well how much of a community facility this was, and that hundreds will be affected by this fire.

“However, it is heartened by the messages of support on social media for the club, which show just how strong the people of Spennymoor are and how they will come together to turn this tragedy around.

“The Town Council can confirm that it does carry an insurance policy which covers the pavilion, and first thing Monday morning the town clerk will be contacting the insurance brokers and working with the club's management committee to see how it can assist them.”

Witnesses or anyone with information are urged to contact Durham police on 101, quoting incident 481 of July 7, 2018.