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    AN ILLEGAL rave on Saturday night ended with a deserted cottage being burnt down after 700 partygoers swarmed to Coldharbour.

    Two fire engines went to battle the fire at 7.30am on Sunday after residents of the village endured a sleepless night, disturbed by four sound systems that took over a private field.

    From 11pm on Saturday, residents had watched as cars and vans drove down Crockers Lane to the two private fields that ravers have illegally occupied on numerous previous occasions.

    Police have estimated there were about 200 people present, but residents and fire officers set the crowd at between 700 to 800.

    Jenny Richards, chairman of Capel Parish Council, said: “A neighbour of mine said that she had never seen so many big white vans before and the police were contacted, but they could not send anyone.

    “They were extremely apologetic, but they told us that they simply did not have enough police to help.”

    Despite the call at 11pm informing police that vehicles carrying sound systems were entering the lane, officers didn’t reach the village until 2am as they had been diverted to an emergency at Horley.

    Mrs Richards said: “People just don’t bother ringing up the police any more as they know the reception they will get and the police know the number of people they will have to contend with at the raves.”

    When police did arrive at the scene, they were unable to get their vehicle along the track to the site of the rave and stayed in the village where they sent back traffic that was still attempting to gain access to Crockers Lane.

    At 7.30am, two engines and two water carriers were called out from Crawley and Dorking fire stations, carrying 9,000 litres of water as the property was so remote that there was no water supply.

    Phil Hawley, commander of Dorking Fire Station, said: “We believe that this was arson caused by a small element at the party who were disruptive. The rest of the partygoers seemed very well behaved.”

    The building was considered unsafe for firefighters to enter and Commander Hawley said that conditions under which firefighting took place were “a nightmare”.

    Fire officers at the scene saw sound engineers from the party recording the fire on a digital camera and the police have said that they would be keen to see the footage.

    As police arrived on the scene with firefighters, they stopped partygoers to question them on the events that had taken place.

    Inspector Colin Green from Dorking police station said: “There is an ongoing investigation as far as the fire is concerned and we have a positive lead.

    Councillor Neil Maltby (Con, Leith Hill) said: “I do not think it is acceptable that a rave should take place on private land in the middle of the night in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and cause damage.”

    Paul Sweeney, director of property company Ashfronts, which owns the cottage, said: “I am very disappointed. There were raves last year, and I contacted the police, to whom I gave out my permission to contact me 24 hours a day and they also had my authority to oust anyone from the site.

    “Hopefully we will refurbish the property as soon as possible and get help from the councillors to make sure this kind of thing does not happen again.”

    BBC NEWS | News Front Page






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