THE owner of a former church that was gutted by fire on Wednesday evening has said he is selling the site to a developer and will be “glad to see the back of it”.

Nadeem Butt, from Heaton, bought the premises at the junction of Broadway Avenue and Hastings Street, Bradford, in 2006 from the Unitarian Church.

After two unsuccessful planning application attempts he managed to secure permission for five three-storey houses, in two blocks, in December 2015.

“I had looked at developing the site myself but eventually decided it would be better to sell it and let someone else get on with it,” said Mr Butt.

“It has been a bit of a pain but it did seem a good investment to start with.

“I had a lot of problems with local people objecting to the plans. Some even said they objected because they were told it was going to be replaced with 50 flats. They had not even looked at the plans.”

Mr Butt, who works in IT, added: “Since I bought it I have had to spend a lot of money clearing away fly-tipping and rubbish that keeps being dumped there or the council said they would prosecute.

“It wasn’t my rubbish, but stuff that people thought they could just dump there.

“It’s been up for a sale for a while now and there has been some interest. Hopefully the fire hasn’t put them off.

“At least the site will be cleared which I will have to pay for as well. I will be glad to see the back of it and don’t want to have to put any more money into the place.

“I was really fed up when I was told on Wednesday that it was on fire. I expect it was youths messing about. I’ve not heard back from the fire service yet.”

Six fire engines were sent to tackle the blaze, which is believed to have started at around 5.15pm on Wednesday.

The last of the firefighters left the scene at 11.30pm and yesterday a fire investigation officer was making a report into the possible cause of the blaze.

A spokesman for the fire service said they suspected it had been started deliberately.

“The building was 100 per cent involved when we got there. It was basically a big timber-framed hut.

“There may have been rubbish tipped there that someone had set light to and that has spread to the building. That’s what the investigating officer will find out.”

Ward Councillor Taj Salam (Lab, Little Horton) said: “I was told of the fire that evening. I have been calling for the building to be made secure for a long time so children could not get inside. It has been a real eyesore for the residential area.

“I will ask council officers to make sure the site is cleared and any dangerous materials removed as soon as possible.”