PHOTOS: Dancing in the street as servo burns

GUTTED: Fire destroyed controversial Stockton service station Rose’s Garage on Saturday night. Police are treating it as suspicious. Picture: Mike Alston. A STOCKTON service station, at the centre of a long-running dispute between residents and its recalcitrant operator, has burned to the ground in suspicious circumstances just two weeks after Crown lands revoked the lease.

It hadbeen labelled a “blight on Stockton’s landscape”, “an eyesore” and was widely regarded as a bad lookfor the peninsula’s image by residents who have fought for months to have Rose’s Garage operator Chris Sharp evicted and the land remediated.

So as the large shed crackled and popped and flames shot out the roof on Saturday night, residents gathered across the road to watch it burn.

Some rejoiced, others drove past honking their horns in approval, one woman was even spotted “dancing in the street”, residents said.

On Sunday morning, with the shed in ruins, dozens of residents stopped to take a peak past the police tape.

“There will be a big party in Stockton tonight,” one man said.

It was an unexpected end to a long-running saga that has included legal battles between Mr Sharp andNewcastle City Council, the Environmental Protection Agency and Crown lands.

A Fire and Rescue NSW spokesman said a triple-zero call came in about 7.30pm to report a building fire in Fullerton Street at Stockton.

When firefighters arrived the building was fully alight and it took six trucks and 25 firefighters more than two hours to bring it under control and extinguish the blaze.

There was noone inside at the time of the fire and no one was injured.

Fire and Rescue NSW and police are both treating the blaze as suspicious.

Detectives have launched an investigation into the cause and specialist forensic police examined the charred remains on Sunday.

The blaze occurred just two weeks after Crown lands revoked the lease and moved to evict Mr Sharp.

While not the formal lease holder, Mr Sharp has been in control of the site since July, 2012.

And during his time there the site has become a dumping ground for old cars and other machinery.

On Sunday, the service station was littered with a damaged ultralight aircraft, air hockey table, three barbecues, a couch, four cars, a boat, eskies, fridges and other pieces of scrap metal.

PHOTOS: Dancing in the street as servo burns TweetFacebookNewcastle Herald attempted to call Mr Sharp on Sunday but calls went unanswered.

Mr Crakanthorp said once Mr Sharp is removed, the community wanted to have a say on what went on the site.

“I have been calling on the government to take action on this site since the beginning of the year,” Mr Crakanthorp said.

“If action had been taken sooner then this might not have happened.

“We need to look forward now as to how we can make this site useful and important for the Stockton community again.”

Prior to the fire, Mr Sharp had been engaged in a legal stoush with Newcastle City Council over alterations to the rear of the building, which allegedly occurred without the proper approvals.

That matter is listed for hearing in Newcastle Local Court in February.

There had also allegedly been a spill on the site inMarch this year.

Meanwhile, a house at Adamstown was severely damaged by fire on Friday night.

A Fire and Rescue NSW spokesman said the blaze was an accident and triggered by an electrical fault.

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