A COMMUNAL shed on the Sorrell Road allotments in Blackbird Leys went up in flames last night and police have launched an arson investigation.

Residents called the fire brigade at about 9pm after the shed, full of shared tools, and nearby trees caught fire.

Fabia Cerra, who lives in Century Place which backs onto the site, said her 11-year-old son had spotted the flames from his bedroom window.

She said: "The shed was on fire. There was a lady on the phone panicking; the fire looked pretty bad but fortunately all the garden fences weren't affected.

"It was shocking to see it go up like that and think of the damage it could have caused to all the kids and families living in the house right by it."

She said a fire engine arrived 'in minutes' and added: "They were so skilled. They jumped over the railings because they couldn't get through the gate; it was crazy.

"I feel really bad for the people who put their time and energy into their allotments, and have pride in them."

Thames Valley Police is treating the incident as a suspected arson. 

Crime scene investigators will be attending the scene and house-to-house enquiries are being undertaken. 

Police are also reviewing CCTV from nearby properties.

Paul Brackett, of Thistle Drive, who has had an allotment on the site for about six years, ran to get a key for the gates last night.

The 58-year-old, whose plot was not damaged in the fire, said: "It was everybody's shared shed, used for storage and tools.

"I've moved my pens and paper to design the layout of my plot for the year down to the shed. That was the most important thing that went for me, my plans for the year."

In recent weeks allotment users had also begun painting the shed in the colours of Oxford United ahead of the team going to Wembley for the Checkatrade Trophy final next month.

He said: "We were going to paint it blue and yellow for Oxford United for the week, to say 'Come on you Yellows', because Blackbird Leys is the home of Oxford United.

"We had done about the bottom third. My nephew is a qualified painter and was doing it in his spare time."

There are about 50 plots on the Sorrell Road site, which is owned by Oxford City Council.

Thames Valley Police spokesman James Williams said: "We would encourage anyone with any information about the incident to please call the 24-hour Thames Valley Police enquiry centre on 101 and quote reference 43170080721."

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Owen Morton said: "The fire and rescue service was called to reports of an allotment shed fire at around 8.40pm.

"Two crews from The Slade attended and extinguished the fire with hose reels. The incident was left in the hands of the police."