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Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 12:38 GMT

UK: Scotland

Fire warning on Carbeth estate

The Scottish Parliament has been asked to help the hutters

A senior police officer has warned that people's lives could be in danger after the discovery of a sixth fire on the Carbeth Estate in West Stirlingshire.

The estate has been at the centre of a long-running battle in which residents have been refusing to pay rent increases.

A number of the huts on estate, which belongs to Allan Barns-Graham, have been burned down.

More than 80 hutters, who have been witholding payments in protest at rent rises of up to 42% as well as increased service charges, face eviction.

Accelerant used

The sixth fire in the past three months was discovered during an investigation into another blaze at the weekend in which a dog died after a chalet was burned to the ground.

Police say an accelerant was used in the latest fire, which caused flash damage to the hut.

Detective Inspector Alan Moffat said he could not rule out that all six fires had been started deliberately.

A police incident caravan has been set up at the nearby Carbeth Inn and eight officers have been assigned to the inquiry, which will include a review of previous fires.

Mr Moffat said his great fear was that the situation could escalate and people could die.

He appealed for anyone who has stayed in the huts over the past four months to come forward and is trying to trace more than 160 owners.

Evidence to committee

Members of the Carbeth Hutters Association are to be asked to give evidence to the Scottish Parliament's Justice Committee.

The hutters have said they are in a desperate situation and urgently need protective legislation.

They have petitioned the parliament to include a provision in the first Land Reform Bill to ensure people who have owned property on rented land for at least four years have secure tenancies and access to rent control.

Attempts by some of the owners of the holiday huts to prove security of tenure have been rejected by a sheriff.

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