TWO fire crews remain at the scene of an overnight blaze which damaged a disused building on former cement works in Weardale.

The fire was reported several hours earlier in the large derelict Lafarge Leisure Centre building, on the old Blue Circle Cement site, at Eastgate, near Stanhope.

At its height, shortly before 4am today, five appliances and an aerial ladder platform from across County Durham were on site tackling the flames.

The Northern Echo:

BLAZE: The scene of the gutted derelict building this morning Picture: COUNTY DURHAM AND DARLINGTON FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE

Rob Cherrie, group manager, who was on the scene, said an investigation into the start of the suspected deliberate fire will take place.

However, due to asbestos in the roof of the single-storey building, fire and police officers are unable to carry out the inquiry on the site for health risks.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service received a report of the fire at 1.04am.

Fire engines from Stanhope, Crook, Consett, Middleton-in-Teesdale and Bishop Auckland and the aerial ladder platform from Durham attended the incident.

Firefighters cooled a diesel tank on site as a precaution.

The fire is now under control but two fire engines remain at the scene to make it safe.

The site has remained unused since 2002, which saw the closure of the works, a major employer in the dale.

There has been a recent application to Durham County Council by site owner, Eastgate Works, to demolish the site buildings to create a caravan park.