Dereham fire update: Chip shop’s future unclear

The owner of a popular Dereham fish and chip shop has said it may not re-open after a fierce blaze in a neighbouring charity shop.

Mariners restaurant, which has been on the Cowper Road car park, for seven years, backs onto the Pact store in Norwich Street which was destroyed by fire last night.

Hakan Niazi, owner and director of the restaurant, said the fire caused between �5,000 and �6,000 damage to the electrics in the store, which had undergone an �8,000 refurbishment just one month ago.

He said: 'I cannot see us re-opening. It caused extensive damage to the electrics. All my money here is now in the air.'

Mr Niazi, of the Maltings, Dereham, employs nine people from the local area and was due to open the restaurant today for between 20 and 30 people for a wake of a regular customer.

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The fish and chip shop, which took on average �1,400 and �1,500 every Friday, was separated from the charity shop by a pre-fabricated wall.

He said some �10,000 of unused stock was left in the walk-in freezers and the first floor of the restaurant was 'unsafe'.

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Mr Niazi added he was first told about the fire by a friend and got to the scene by 10pm.

He said: 'I thought it was Mariners on fire when I got down here. I wasn't allowed to get into the property. I feel sad. It is really very bad but what can you do.'

His ex-wife Angela Green, who helped set up the business and is still an adviser for the company, said everyone involved in Mariners was 'devastated'.

She added the future of Mariners was not clear and building assessors were due to look at the structure next week.

'The water is soaking through and the building is unsafe. The frozen stock is virtually ruined. This is our baby - it is our life,' Mrs Green added.

The fish and chip restaurant, which was insured, was part of a �1m redevelopment plans for Norwich Street put forward by mid-Norfolk entrepreneur Basil Todd.

Mr Todd, of Welborne, near Dereham, also owns the Pact store building and the former Lloyds TSB bank building next door, among other buildings on the street.

He said the flames ripped through to the first floor of the old bank, which is also part of the redevelopment plans.

The businessman submitted an application to Breckland Council last month to refurbish the former bank and demolish the building, which contained the Pact store and Mariners restaurant.

It is due to be discussed by councillors in February, according to Mr Todd, who wants to create residential as well as retail units in the whole area.

He was at the fire-damaged site today and said architects and planners will look around the building when it is deemed safe to enter. He was not sure what is going to happen with the application.

Mr Todd said he first attended the scene at 11pm.

He added: 'It has done a huge amount of damage. It is quite scary. I'm concerned the building is held up by three or four pieces of metal that hold up the ceiling in the PACT building. I'm scared it is going to collapse. The office part of the bank and the windows are absolutely blackened with smoke next to the stairwell where the roof was blown out.'

Mr Todd said he was 'devastated' about the blaze.

'The charity shop would have done quite well over the Christmas period. It is heartbreaking for them. When I arrived the flames were coming out of the roof quite strong.'

Philip Morter, who owns Bennetts Electrical in Norwich Street as well as three other business buildings behind the electrical store, said he arrived at the scene at 11pm with one staff member.

His stores were not affected and were open today.

Mr Morter said: 'I feel sorry for the people affected.'

He added: 'I was terrified. You could see the smoke and flames when we came into town. We have spent a lot of money on our shops over the years and we have finished paying for it this week. We have been working on the buildings for 10 years.'

Mr Morter said the firefighters were 'brilliant'.

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