On 15th June 2015, an explosion in a property in Oak Tree Road and a subsequent fire damaged neighbouring flats and disrupted in an instant the lives of residents both in the eight Ashford Borough Council owned homes and those living nearby.
At the time the Council worked quickly going well above its statutory duty to provide displaced residents with support and advice and give financial assistance for any immediate items they needed. It also paid the equivalent of B&B costs to those staying with family and friends at the time and, where it was possible, possessions were recovered and stored free of charge until new properties were identified and secured.
The strong community spirit that exists in South Ashford was also in evidence, with the local community rallying round for the affected residents. The local school allowed the workmen on site the chance to come in and make drinks and use the facilities, and local residents took cups of tea and doughnuts to the site workers.
Twelve months later, those who were displaced have settled into their new accommodation. Since then, the independent investigation has been completed by the Health and Safety Executive and the structural integrity of the building fully assessed.
Housing officers have been dealing with loss adjusters and building control officers to agree on the works that need to be carried out. Architects have also been employed to draw up a revised scheme for the plot. The council has, in the meantime, laid a footpath to make it easier for those undertaking the school run on foot.
The council is now thanking those residents who live nearby for their patience, help and co-operation, and is close to being able to announce what will happen with the site itself.
On 31st May (today), the tenders are due to be received from those wishing to undertake the work on the site, transforming it back to habitable, though improved, accommodation. By mid-June contractors will be appointed and it is anticipated that by the end of June those contractors will be on site setting up in readiness for the rebuild, or demolition and rebuild.
While the council will not be disclosing the details of the insurance settlement, it 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.
Each of the two options will see a like-for-like replacement of the properties that were there – with eight one-bedroom flats, of the same height, erected. Weatherboarding will give the properties a superior external finish and they will be rebuilt to new specifications. This is felt to be the best option for all concerned. Those people who were displaced will be offered the opportunity to move back to the area if they so wish, though they will be under absolutely no obligation to do so. Nearby residents will be kept informed about the progress on site and disruption, as it was a year ago, will be kept to a minimum.
Ashford Borough Council 02 June 2016