A DEVASTATING fire which destroyed a school gym may be linked to a ‘postcode gang’ war.
The blaze that ripped through the building at Salendine Nook High School, off New Hey Road, on Friday night caused £30,000 of damage.
An empty petrol can was found nearby and the incident is being treated as arson.
Andrew Foster, acting head teacher at the school, said there had been rumours of gang problems in the area.
He said: “It’s this mindless postcode rubbish.
“We had some graffiti on another external building that said ‘HD5’ and some windows were smashed a couple of weeks back.
“We had names of pupils from different schools that were given to police. They are following it up.
“We are wondering if it’s a gang thing and if this is a retaliatory incident.
“It’s certainly not a school rivalry issue.”
He said they had not ruled out the possibility someone from the school itself was responsible.
The building used to be a pavilion belonging to Salendine Nook Old Boys Cricket Club.
The school took it over about three years ago after the club folded.
Since then the school’s Head of PE, Rob Morris, has led efforts to turn it into a gym containing treadmills, rowing machines, cross training machines and weights stations.
Mr Foster said: “It’s an independent building and the fire has not affected the rest of the school and it’s covered by insurance, but Rob has put so much time and effort into making it what it was. It’s devastating, sickening.
“I was in assembly and it was read out and all the pupils are just shocked.”
Firefighters from Huddersfield and Dewsbury battled all Friday night and into Saturday morning to put out the blaze.
Extra damage was caused by an explosion from beer kegs and gas cylinders left there by the cricket club.
None of the equipment escaped the blaze.
Mr Foster said it was unlikely the school would be able to rebuild the pavilion.
He said: “It’s all very complicated building on school sites.
“We wouldn’t have been able to erect that sort of building ourselves. The only reason we were able to have it was because it became ours by default.”
Gareth Crossley, acting inspector for Huddersfield North Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT), which covers Salendine Nook, said the area did not have a gang problem.
He added: “We have had reports of young people hanging around on the streets and we are working with the relevant agencies to address this issue.
“But it should also be made clear that just because there are young people out and about, it does not necessarily mean they are involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour.”
Police are awaiting the results of forensic tests before they officially class Friday’s fire as arson.
Anyone with information should call 0845 6060606 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
To report problems to Huddersfield North NPT call 01484 436906.