THE rate of fires at the rundown Clune Park estate is SIXTEEN times more than anywhere else in Inverclyde.

A new report has revealed the scale and cost of deliberate blazes and vandalism at the crumbling and largely-empty Port Glasgow housing scheme - and warned that emergency services staff are being put at great risk.

In a 10-month period up to August this year, there were 16 instances of fire-raising in Clune Park compared to just one on average in each of the last three years in neighbouring areas.

Across Inverclyde, the rate was 1.38 in 2018.

The information was revealed in a report, based on official emergency services figures, which will go before the council's police and fire scrutiny committee tomorrow.

Martin McNab, the local authority's head of public and environmental protection, said: "At an Inverclyde level the prevalence of dwelling fires per 1,000 properties has decreased from 2.02 in 2017 to 1.38 in 2018.

"In the Clune Park regeneration area, the comparable rate is 32.3 dwelling fires per 1,000 properties in the past 10 months, with this figure expected to rise for a full 12-month period."

Vandalism and fly-tipping is also getting worse at the 430-property estate, which is said to be 95 per cent unoccupied.

The windows of 18 ground floor flats were damaged and tonnes of rubbish dumped during one recent wrecking spree.

Mr McNab said: "Vandalism is prevalent across the estate, with forced entries, smashed windows and fly-tipping being a constant issue. "In recent weeks a single episode of vandalism saw the windows of 18 ground floor flats smashed and a considerable tonnage of fly-tipping into a common close which had to be removed to reduce the fire risk.

"Deliberate fire raising combined with the poor physical condition of the properties in Clune Park increases the risk of harm for officers of Scottish Fire and Rescue who not only have to attend to the fire, but also have to carry out a full property check throughout the building each time there is a fire."

Officials say it costs £150-£200 to secure a single property every time there is an incident and around £3,000 for the whole ground floor of a building, including blocking front and rear entrances, windows and installing steel sheets.

Mr McNab said: "However, experience has shown that even this high standard of security works does not prevent vandalism, with entry to one wholly secured building having been gained by knocking through the wall from the privately owned, unsecured, neighbouring building."

The council has been desperately trying to demolish the estate since regeneration plans were revealed eight years ago.

The Tele reveal in July that a total of 165 properties in Clune Park have been purchased by the council with 'closing orders' slapped on another 90, meaning that no one can move into them.

There are 430 flats on the eyesore estate and Municipal Buildings bosses say six buildings are subject to active demolition orders.

Most of the properties are now owned by the local authority with the remainder in the hands of private landlords.