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Thousands on homes waiting list but Newmarket flats still stand empty

Flats in George Lambton Avenue were damaged by fire in April 2017
Flats in George Lambton Avenue were damaged by fire in April 2017

A block of flats in Newmarket is still standing empty two years after residents were rehoused after a fire.

The flats, in George Lambton Avenue, were damaged on April 9, 2017, when a fire, which was thought to have started in the space between the exterior and interior walls of the building, took hold.

A total of 23 people were evacuated into emergency accommodation and were subsequently found new homes by housing association Flagship Homes.

But two years on, with 2,500 families on West Suffolk Council’s waiting list for social housing, nearby residents are asking why the flats remain empty.

One resident who drives past the block on a daily basis claims that work to repair the damage, caused by the fire, got under way soon after the blaze when the building was covered with scaffolding while the walls were repaired and insulation between inner and outer walls was replaced.

“The site was cordoned off while the work was being done. It took about six to eight months and then the scaffolding went and the cordon was taken down.

“Now, all the lights on the stairwells go on every night and you can walk round the back into the communal garden and look into the flats which are all the same and look all ready to live in,” said the resident, who asked not to be named.

“I don’t know if there is anything in it but there have been rumours about an issue with Flagship’s insurance”, he said.

Charlie Conley, head of asset management at the Flagship Group told the Journal : “There is outstanding work to be progressed in respect of these flats. This has taken longer than we would have hoped.

“We are working to finalise matters as soon as possible in order to make the properties available to future customers.

“No additional service charges are being allocated to other residents,” added Mr Conley.

A spokeswoman for West Suffolk Council said there were currently 1,322 people on the waiting list for social housing in the Newmarket area and she said that number was likely to increase as following changes to the register, people were still in the process of re-registering.

As for the flats, she said: “They are the responsibility of Flagship and all we know is that we are waiting to be told that those properties are available again.”