Oxfordshire fires: 'Years' before council staff return

Firefighters at the South Oxfordshire District Council building Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A blaze destroyed 85% of the South Oxfordshire District Council offices in Crowmarsh Gifford on 15 January

It will be two or three years before council staff return to their fire-ravaged building, its leader has said.

A blaze destroyed 85% of the South Oxfordshire District Council offices in Crowmarsh Gifford on 15 January.

About 70 staff out of 400 are working from its Abingdon office, shared with the Vale of White Horse District Council, while others work from home.

Council leader John Cotton said they hoped to announce a temporary long-term office solution in the next week.

'Rebuild somewhere'

The council wants to have all its staff in one building, which could happen in about seven weeks at the earliest but "realistically probably a couple of months", Mr Cotton said.

Of the council's own building, the council leader said: "It is going to be at least two or three years before we are back into our own building.

"At this point I am assuming we are going to rebuild somewhere."

Mr Cotton said they hoped to be allowed back in their offices "shortly" to salvage what they could including documents, office equipment and personal belongings.

This is dependent on the go ahead from the council's insurers, structural engineers and the police.

Image copyright Ian negus
Image caption Salvors have yet to give the go ahead for staff to go back into the fire-ravaged building to retrieve documents and belongings

He confirmed no council jobs were at risk because of the fire and that 130 staff should be back to work by Friday.

Some workers are also using the Cornerstone arts centre in Didcot as temporary office space.

"Congratulations to the staff on their effort to get things working. They all do a fantastic job," Mr Cotton said.

In total, 27 crews tackled three blazes at the offices, an undertakers and a thatched cottage, that all started shortly after 03:00 GMT.

Andrew Main, 47, of Rokemarsh Farm, Rokemarsh, has been charged with two counts of arson with intent to endanger life and two counts of arson reckless as to whether life was endangered.

He is due to appear at Oxford Crown Court on 30 January.

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