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Road to be closed for repairs following devastating flat fire

PUBLISHED: 17:03 23 January 2019

Fire crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: AMY SMITH

Fire crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: AMY SMITH

Archant

Part of Halesworth town centre will be closed for three days next month to allow for repairs following a fire that ripped through two Grade II listed flats above the town's newsagents.

Fire crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: AMY SMITHFire crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: AMY SMITH

The fire, which devastated the town in June last year, started within the first floor flat of No. 29 Market Place and spread to the adjoining Mansion House, causing significant disruption to the town centre and surrounding area.

As the blaze ripped through two Grade II listed buildings, the structure has taken some time to stabilise using scaffolds and temporary propping – while demolition contractors have stripped away parts of the historic fabric that could not be saved.

Now, following months of careful work, the council is planning to close the part of the busy street to allow a new scaffold roof to be craned into position.

The installation will require the closure of Market Place directly opposite Mansion House (between The Feed Barn and Black Dog Antiques) for three days – from Sunday, February 17 to Tuesday, February 19.

Fire crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: AMY SMITHFire crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: AMY SMITH

During this time, the temporary scaffold roof will be erected over Mansion House – which has retained some historic and listed features.

It will not be extended over No. 29 Market Place, as much of the historic fabric was lost in the blaze.

Pedestrian access will be maintained to local shops and businesses, however the pathways will be closed during each crane lift for safety reasons, for approximately 30 minutes each time.

Following further surveys and safety inspections, and subject to Listed Building consent, it is then hoped a new permanent roof will then be reinstated on both properties.

Fire crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: AMY SMITHFire crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: AMY SMITH

The fire was particularly devastating for businesses on the Market Place, including DC Patrick Newsagents, which was forced to move to Halesworth Thoroughfare after being caught in the blaze.

Despite everything, owner David Patrick remained positive – and, with the support of his drivers, vowed that newspapers would still be delivered the next morning.

He then set up a pop-up shop within a week, thanks to the help of Peter Vandijk who offered office space behind his accountants’ office.

Emergency services even saved David’s beloved parrot Edd, and regulars have been enquiring after the shop’s mascot ever since.

Fire and police crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: NICK BUTCHERFire and police crews at the scene of last year's fire in Halesworth Picture: NICK BUTCHER

On October 7, the new shop opened on The Thoroughfare. It will be the Halesworth shop’s temporary home until the Market Street premises has been rebuilt.

Speaking about life since the blaze, Mr Patrick said he was pleased to announce trade was back to normal – but the night of the fire still haunts him.

“I still wake up worrying about it,” he said.

“I have basically got my trade back to near where it was. People are very happy with the shop.”

The smoke could be seen from he outskirts of the town  Picture: BEN HAMMONDThe smoke could be seen from he outskirts of the town Picture: BEN HAMMOND

He added that his parrot Edd is better than ever, and thriving in his new home.

“If anything he’s more noisy in here than he was in the other shop,” he joked.

Mr Patrick also revealed he has been nominated for a national award in recognition of the hard work it took to keep the newspapers circulating after the fire.

The black tie event will take place in London on February 12.

The view of the Halesworth fire from above Picture: STEVEN FISKThe view of the Halesworth fire from above Picture: STEVEN FISK

A 32-year-old man who was charged with arson endangering life, common assault, breach of a restraining order and taking a vehicle without consent following the devastating blaze is due to stand trial in April.

Stephen Wilson, of Poppy Close, Loddon, was due to stand trial at Ipswich Crown Court in December, but the case was adjourned by Judge David Goodin.

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