Work to tranform a derelict Leyland pub into flats, which was targeted by arsonists, will start this week to avoid further trouble.
The fire service and police were called to the closed-down Waggon and Horses on Bent Lane at 7.45pm on Wednesday.
The bathroom area on the first floor was alight when they arrived, and fire had spread to the hallway, where there was ‘severe’ damage caused.
There was also smoke damage to the five rooms on the first floor, and the rooms downstairs.
Fire crews are treating the fire as suspicious, and believe youths are responsible.
The Waggon and Horses closed a couple of months ago, and plans were passed at the end of April for the building to be extended and converted into flats for people with mental health problems.
Now, the managing director of Next Stage Ltd, the firm behind the project, has spoken of the urgency to get the work done before the empty pub attracts even more trouble.
“There is no real harm done, and it won’t set us back with the renovation work,” he said.
“But we are certainly aware that while we’re in limbo, it is at risk of attracting kids to mess about, and falling into ruin and becoming an eyesore.
“The plans were referred to the planning committee instead of being decided at a delegated level, which was fair enough because there was a lot of public interest locally in the scheme, but that meant a five-week delay.
“As soon as a building like this becomes derelict, straight away it attracts people to treat it like a playground.
“It is worrying. It’s a foolish thing for kids to do, but it just means we’re really keen to get this turned around quickly.”
Neighbours speaking out at the planning meeting expressed concerns that the nature of the pub’s future use, as accommodation for people with mental health problems, would bring unwanted crime.
But Mr O’Rourke believes the change of use will be better for the community than leaving the building empty.
He said renovation work is set to start on the site this week, and once the facility is up and running, there will be security such as CCTV cameras, fencing, and an on-site warden.