Council insists work 'ongoing' at bungalows following arson attack

PUBLISHED: 08:01 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 08:01 05 December 2019

Archant

A fire in a derelict bungalow in Little Dunmow could have been set off deliberately the fire service has said - after Uttlesford District Council was criticised for leaving derelict buildings as a target for vandals.

Fire crews from Braintree arrived at about 6.15pm on Saturday to find half the building, in Station Road, alight but the fire was put out within the hour.

An Essex Fire Service spokesman said: "The cause of the fire has been determined as accidental or deliberate."

But a Dunmow resident who contacted the Broadcast said the blaze followed a series of attacks by vandals on the properties, which this building was part of.

She said: "The tenants of the council-owned properties were relocated some three years ago with a view to redevelopment of the site. Uttlesford District Council, despite much prompting from residents, has failed to demolish these now derelict buildings.

"The area is in close proximity on one side to four Grade II-listed cottages with thatched roofs and on the other side to a heritage conservation area.

"This fire was just the latest in continual acts of vandalism, consisting of smashed doors, broken windows and lead stripping from the roofs. Despite the local authority being well aware of these incidents, their dilatory behaviour in ordering demolition shows a disregard for residents and a lack of common sense. Properties empty for long periods are bound to encourage law-breaking behaviour. This situation is a sad reflection on the recipients of our Council Tax"

A UDC spokesman said: "The site at The Moors is to be redeveloped to provide 16 new council homes. The existing bungalows, which were suffering from subsidence that proved uneconomical to rectify and were not fit for purpose, are awaiting demolition to make way for the new homes.

"Whilst the bungalows are boarded up and the site is secured with fencing, there have on occasion been incidents of vandalism to the fencing and the properties. These incidents have been reported to the police, and action taken to re-secure the site.

"The council has been working through the steps needed in order for the work to get under way. This has included submitting a planning application, which was approved earlier this year, as well as a procurement process to ensure best value and quality. "We are close to getting planning clearance which will mean the contractor can get on site to start the demolition of the bungalows."

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