ROUGH sleepers trying to keep warm could be behind a series of fires in the former police station and magistrates' court in Christchurch.

Fire chiefs have now called for extra patrols to be carried out at the derelict Bargates site until it can be demolished.

Emergency servies were called to the building twice this week on Sunday night and Tuesday morning.

Following the incidents, Fire Safety Manager Graham Kewley told the Daily Echo: "The buildings are earmarked for redevelopment but until such time as the legal sale of the premises has completed the building remains in a state of some disrepair.

"The current building owners are maintaining regular checks on the premises but unfortunately access by rough sleepers and those determined to gain access has been a problem for some time."

He said the complex layout of the building and the fact that fire protection systems are no longer in use mean enough resources must attend on each occasion to search the building for persons.

"The recent fires appear to have been as a result of attempts by those entering the premises to keep warm rather than any malicious intent" he added.

"We continue to work with Dorset Police and council teams to improve the safety and security of the building and have requested additional patrols until such time as demolition work is approved."