Demolition work starts on the former Gray’s Arcade on Wells Quay

Demolition work started today to transform a burnt out arcade which has been a 'blot on the landscape' since it was destroyed by fire seven years ago.

The Gray's Arcade on Wells Quay and the adjoining Yellow Shop were boarded up and left as an eyesore since January 2005 when they were severely damaged in the blaze, which took 70 firefighters three hours to put out.

Over the years several attempts have been made to bring the former Gray's Arcade back into use, which all failed, and North Norfolk District Council even considered issuing a compulsory purchase order (CPO) two years ago.

A CPO was not needed after the Gray family sold the building to Novus Homes (Norfolk) Ltd, which is leading the redevelopment.

Allen Frary, chairman of Wells Town Council, said: 'At last people can see progress is being made. The building has been a blot on the landscape for many years.'

Maggie Ward, Wells town councillor, said: 'We are absolutely delighted because it is doing nothing for the town.'

Another town councillor, Rodney Crafer, said: 'We all feel the same - that it is a long time coming and we are pleased to see something happening.'

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Chris Wells, owner of Novus Homes (Norfolk) Ltd, said he expected the demolition work to last up to four weeks and it is hoped that it will be finished by Easter.

Although some machines will be used during the demolition, the work will mainly be done by hand because of the delicate state of the building.

The roof was removed last week and the dozens of arcade games were taken out about three months ago.

Building work is expected to start around autumn and will last between a year and 15 months, according to Mr Wells.

Jonathan Savory, district councillor for Wells, said: 'It was bad because it looked so rundown for such a long while, but the district council were keen to see it redeveloped. Wells has a lot of tourists who return every year and they all want to see the town thrive, as we all do.'

Redevelopment plans were put forward by Novus Homes (Norfolk) Ltd to North Norfolk District Council in April last year, which were passed in June.

The new building will be four storeys high and include three shops and nine apartments.

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