Plans to re­build gas blast flats

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News - By Vicky Cas­tle

Nearly a year af­ter a huge gas ex­plo­sion gut­ted a row of South Ash­ford flats, a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion has been lodged to re­build the prop­er­ties.

On June 15 last year, a fire­ball ripped through the row of eight coun­cil-owned prop­er­ties in Oak Tree Road, leav­ing 10 peo­ple home­less.

Dozens of nearby homes were evac­u­ated and one res­i­dent was taken to a spe­cial­ist burns unit in Lon­don with se­ri­ous in­juries.

The Health and Safety Ex­ec­u­tive be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the blast but ruled that no fur­ther ac­tion would be taken.

Ash­ford Bor­ough Coun­cil has sub­mit­ted two plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions for the de­mo­li­tion and re­build­ing of the block of flats.

A coun­cil spokesman said hous­ing of­fi­cers, loss ad­justers, build­ing con­trol of­fi­cers and ar­chi­tects have been work­ing up schemes for the plot.

He said: “By mid-June con­trac­tors will be ap­pointed and it is an­tic­i­pated that by the end of June con­trac­tors will be set­ting up in readi­ness for the re­build or de­mo­li­tion and re­build.

“While we will not be dis­clos­ing the de­tails of the in­sur­ance set­tle­ment, we can con­firm that there will be no cost to the coun­cil other than that of invit­ing ten­ders and the mi­nor costs for the plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions for both the ren­o­va­tion op­tions.”

Both plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions will see a like-for-like re­place­ment of the prop­er­ties – eight one-bed­room flats of the same height. The flats will be weath­er­boarded and re­built to new spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

Peo­ple who lived there will be of­fered the op­por­tu­nity to move back in, al­though they will not be un­der any obli­ga­tion to do so.

Cllr Paul Clokie, port­fo­lio holder for hous­ing and home own­er­ship, said: “I am pleased that we are al­most at a point where the final chap­ter can be writ­ten in this in­ci­dent.

“Al­though the site has looked fairly sim­i­lar for the last year, a lot of work has been go­ing on within the coun­cil to agree the in­sur­ance set­tle­ment and work with the ap­pro­pri­ate pro­fes­sion­als.

“We await for­mal plan­ning per­mis­sion but the new homes will have both an im­proved ap­pear­ance and ther­mal ca­pac­ity.

“Once again, we thank nearby res­i­dents for their pa­tience and sup­port dur­ing the last year.”

To see the plans search for 16/00674/AS and 16/00669/AS at plan­ning.ash­ford.gov.uk

Con­trac­tors work to make the area safe af­ter a gas ex­plo­sion de­stroyed a block of flats at Oak Tree Road last year

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