Fire damages former Lonsdale Cinema in Carlisle

Lonsdale Cinema fire
Image caption More than 20 firefighters tackled the blaze

A fire which damaged part of a former cinema in Carlisle is being treated as suspicious.

More than 20 firefighters tackled the blaze at the derelict former Lonsdale Cinema in Warwick Road on Monday night.

It is believed the fire started in the bingo hall area at the rear of the building, which closed in 2006.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service said an investigation had started into the cause, which was initially being treated as suspicious.

Fiona Robson, who is a Carlisle city councillor and chairman of the Lonsdale Arts Trust, said: "Unfortunately there had already been a lot of damage done to the inside of the building by vandals and squatters.

"We understand that things could have been much worse but for the efforts of the fire brigade."

The trust is lobbying for the building to be turned into an arts centre, with part of it restored into a working cinema.

The building's owners, Manchester-based Empera Estates, have put the site up for sale with an asking price of about £1.4m.

The building opened for the first time in September 1931, and the former stalls area became a bingo hall in the early 1970s.

It was awarded Grade II listing in 2007, but de-listed in March 2010.

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