THE owners of the former Odeon cinema which was set alight in the early hours of Sunday say youngsters who regularly break into the building could be behind the blaze.

Matt Ellis, director at BlueMarble Properties, also said homeless people are regularly found to have set up home inside the dilapidated cinema.

No-one was found to be inside the building as firefighters tackled the blaze.

Gazette: Fire at former Odeon Cinema in Crouch Street, Colchester, on Sunday..

Mr Ellis said: “All you have to do is look on You Tube to see kids go in there to explore the place.

“You get them in there all the time. They’re making videos.

“We had a small fire there probably early this year, nothing serious but it was still a fire and that was from kids as well.

“If people want to get in, they will get in. That’s just the way it is.”

He added: “We have had homeless people in there as well as we’ve had to move them on, it is a constant battle.

Gazette: Fire at former Odeon Cinema in Crouch Street, Colchester, on Sunday..

“I’ve said it from the start - the hardest thing about this building is keeping people out of it and this is what happens when people get in.”

Mr Ellis, who is behind the planned overhaul of the building, added: “Fortunately, this won’t really affect what we’re planning to do and it doesn’t really change anything.”

Darius Laws, Colchester councillor for Castle ward, which includes the town centre, said: “Unfortunately, the sad reality is it has become an eyesore and a hot spot for anti-social behaviour. And if people want to get in, they will find a way in.

“My understanding is the owners may look at something like breeze-blocking up the entries which would at least deter people from getting in.”

He added: “There is no doubt the area is crying out for some rejuvenation and the Odeon has been an eyesore for more than a decade.

“We are all looking forward to the building being revitalised and really it can’t come soon enough.”

BlueMarble’s plans were given the go-ahead by Colchester Council planning committee two weeks ago.

The building, which was originally the Regal Theatre, has been vacant since 2002.

Essex Police is investigating the circumstances surrounding the fire.