Norfolk

Great Yarmouth shops open on site of Regent Road fire

Regent Road shops
Image caption The shops, with flats above, have been built on the site of the indoor market and bowling alley

Shops have opened in a new building almost three years after a fire wrecked an indoor market and bowling alley.

Forty-two stalls and Regent Superbowl on Regent Road, Great Yarmouth, were destroyed at the height of the summer season in August 2016.

The first of 12 shop units opened on the same site on Friday, with work continuing on adjoining housing.

Landlord Phil Thompson said: "I think it's the best-looking building in the town - it's a pleasure to see it.

"Hopefully, and this is not a slur to other people here, it might up the game of the road."

It took more than 100 firefighters seven hours to put out the fire, which started in an ice-cream freezer on 5 August.

Image caption The building was fully engulfed by fire, which was later discovered to have started in an ice-cream freezer
Image caption Phil Thompson, pictured in the aftermath of the fire, said the new building had turned out better than he expected

At its height, a plume of smoke was visible about 10 miles away in Acle and Lowestoft.

It forced neighbouring shops and houses to evacuate the area and was described by the then council leader as a tragedy for the town.

The new building, which includes eight flats above the shops and 15 houses behind, was approved by Great Yarmouth Borough Council the following year.

Image copyright NPAS WATTISHAM
Image caption The smoke from the fire could be seen several miles away
Image caption Part of Regent Road was sealed off as demolition crews stripped the gutted complex

Paul Walia has returned to Regent Road with his T-Shirt King business after losing his entire stock in the blaze.

"We've waited three years and it's been agony," he said.

"We ended up in Victoria Arcade, which was very, very hard work, but we had to get back here."

Eliot Gavan, who has set up his wife's tattoo parlour in one of the new units, said the new building had taken "too long".

"I think it will make a big difference to the street, and make it a lot busier," he added.

"Hopefully this is the start of getting back to where we were."

The bowling alley, which had opened in the early 1960s and was above the indoor market, has not returned to the site.

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