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Developers lodge plans to restore flat fire damage

By Connor Steel

ABRI HOMES have announced they have formally lodged proposals to potentially demolish and rebuild a huge section of a block of flats in Gosport following severe fire damage early this year; the Eastleigh-based housing provider already seeing the planning permission validated by councillors as they look to restore this site and allow all residents to return.

Readers will remember that over sixty firefighters were called to Somerset Court on Heritage Way back in mid-May and battled for many hours to contain the large blaze. Six families lost their home and their belongings in the incident; whilst four people were taken to hospital suffering with injuries such as burns, smoke inhalation or other precautionary issues.

Safety reasons has meant that residents were temporarily rehomed and Abri have been working on a task force to help people affected in the aftermath. This includes moving them into safe hotel or B&B facilities alongside finding long-term accommodation and helping with the cost of essential costs, whilst others have since moved to live with friends / family.

Somerset Court is built with a total of eighteen equal sized apartments across its three blocks of flats; each one hosting six separate apartments for residents and families. Every apartment has its own entrances and parking was included in the location for a limited amount of vehicles; whilst bin stores and bike sheds were all further allocated for easy access.

The housing provider is now keen to ensure this building is restored with on-site investigation now completed and have shared their “initial plans” for development. A major part of this is said to be repairing the building’s central core with fire compartment walls breached and large areas of its roof structure said to be destroyed or smoke damaged in this blaze.

Considerations have been made that “partial demolition” is the best way of correcting structural damage in accordance to health and safety rules; Arbi stating that they would be liaising with the structural engineer to ascertain how much of the site would need to be rebuilt. Any further announcements and site plans are expected to be released in due course.

There is no current plans to change overall appearances or character of Somerset Court with the reconstructed section believed to be a direct copy to the original design, both inside and outside. This includes using exact building materials; such as the red bricks, rooflights, tiles and window glass used across the ‘housing facility’ when it was first constructed.

No initial objections have yet been raised to these proposals, which fits within the criteria of the Hardway Conservation Area and Local Development Plan according to this report. It is not a historical listed site and still of a modern standard with developers hoping that this work can start as soon as possible; despite being at the early stage of council process.

Readers can explore the planning application by visiting the Gosport Borough Council Portal, although they will need to register an account before starting. This link offers a variety of material including site plans, reports and future updates.

PICTURED BY HIWFRS: Firefighters deal with aftermath of large blaze overnight at Somerset Court; occurring in May.