A MAJOR fire has broken out in the grounds of a former school.

Firefighters were called to the site of the old Grays School in Western Road, Newhaven, earlier today.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue service has sent eight engines to the scene and plumes of smoke can be seen for miles.

Residents are being advised to keep their doors and windows closed while emergency services deal with the scene.

Sussex Police are helping to divert traffic and people are being asked to avoid the area.

Witness Joanne Nash, 29, said she could see thick black smoke from the back of her house in nearby Meeching Road.

She said: "It is horrendous. I think there are concerns about asbestos because we have been told to keep the windows and doors closed.

"The building has been empty for a few years but squatters have been known to use it and children have been inside as well."

It is not yet known what started the fire.

Two videos taken at the scene by Daniel Strachan show the extent of the fire and smoke.

There are no reports of any injuries.

A council spokesman said: "We are liaising closely with colleagues from the fire service and police and once their activities at the site are complete we will be working to secure the building.

“Appropriate security measures are in place at all our vacant buildings and security at these sites is regularly reviewed. 

"We will await results of the fire service investigation before drawing any conclusions about the cause of the fire.

“This building closed as a school in 2014 and was later the same year declared surplus to requirements by the council.

“We have contracted to sell the site to a developer who has now received planning permission from Lewes District Council to demolish the existing buildings and build new housing units on the site, subject to completion of a section 106 agreement.”