Regent Road fire two years on: work set to begin on site's new development
PUBLISHED: 18:52 02 August 2018 | UPDATED: 10:11 03 August 2018
Two years after a devastating blaze ripped through the heart of Great Yarmouth's main tourism thoroughfare new buildings are set to rise up on the wasteland site.
The boarded stretch in Regent Road has been a gaping hole overgrown with weeds since a bowling alley and indoor market were engulfed in flames in the early hours of Friday August 5, the height of the summer season.
Owner Phil Thompson said it would be a relief to get started on the scheme, finally approved last month, after years of upset and frustration.
He said the last 24 months had been “absolutely terrible” from the moment the alert was raised, billowing smoke visible for miles in what turned out to be one of the biggest blazes in living memory.
Mr Thompson said: “It has been absolutely terrible. The thing is the market was a way of life. I lived and died in there every day washing the floors and getting things done.
“Everyone got on with everyone. It is quite different from shops where you stand behind a door way. It was brilliant and we were full up all the time.
“It was a community and now it has all gone.”
Under the scheme, ten shops, eight apartments and 15 houses will rise up in place of the indoor market and bowling alley, reckoned the oldest in the country.
Mr Thompson said traders in the busy street were “pulling their hair out” with frustration over the empty site that gave a poor impression to visitors and interrupted the parade of colourful shops.
Work is due to begin in the next few weeks with the new retail units welcoming their new tenants by Easter next year.
Priority will be given to market traders made homeless by the blaze.
More than 100 firefighters and 41 appliances tackled the fire.
Roads in the area were closed, a cordon put in place, and several nearby properties were evacuated as crews attempted to bring the flames under control and save the next door grade II listed Regent Theatre and the terraced homes nearby.
Water was pumped from the nearby river to help tackle the fire as it ravaged the area.
Mr Thompson said the forensic examination was ongoing although the cause of the fire had been traced to an ice-cream freezer.