Gloucestershire

Cheltenham gas explosion: Rebuilding work begins

Damaged house shown from the air
Image caption Three houses had to be demolished after the explosion on in May 2012

Work is due to start on rebuilding homes destroyed in a gas explosion in Cheltenham in May last year.

The blast in Rosehill Street destroyed three properties and people in at least 10 other homes were forced to move while repairs were carried out.

Builders will start work on foundations for three replacement homes later.

Nobody was seriously hurt in the explosion. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report said the true cause may never be known.

A spokesman for Smiths builders said work on the foundations would take four-to-six weeks to complete.

Construction work on a three-story house, to replace number 36 Rosehill Street, and two two-storey houses to replace numbers 32 and 34, will then be able to take place.

Image caption Building work is due to start on the new house for Richard and Sarah Drinkwater

B & M Babbage and Ampm247 will carry out the rest of the building work, which is expected to take about 10 months to complete.

Betty Hodgkiss, then 81, suffered cuts and bruises when her house exploded and was reduced to rubble.

The two neighbouring houses had to be demolished and people in at least 10 other homes were forced to move out.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report in May concluded the explosion happened because of a large release of gas on the ground floor of number 34, but it was not able to say why it was released.

Richard Drinkwater, who lived at number 36 and has been living in rented accommodation ever since, said he was "relieved and excited" that building work is beginning.

"We've been able to have our input into what the [new] house looks like internally, although externally it's got to stay pretty much the same as it was.

"Neither myself nor my wife know how we'll feel actually walking back into the house.

"We've changed the layout completely so it will not have any resemblance to the old house, so we won't be sitting in the same position as we were when the explosion happened."

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