‘An accident waiting to happen’ - Neighbours recount horrors of ‘eyesore’ former care home engulfed by flames
- Credit: Archant
Frustrated homeowners living near a former care home which was gutted by fire have described the blaze as “an accident waiting to happen.”
The former Abbeville Lodge in Great Yarmouth closed its doors to residents in May 2019 after an “inadequate” rating by the Care Quality Commission.
Before the blaze on Tuesday evening, the building had been allowed to grow into a state of disrepair.
For those living near it, the building has become a source of anxiety as they have found themselves having to report trespassing, anti-social behaviour and flytipping “almost daily” since the care home closed.
Bea, who lives near the home and did not want to give her last name, said: “I have lived here for the past 15 years, but since last year have felt uncomfortable in my own home.
“There’s been a steady stream of teenagers and squatters breaking into Abbeville, and groups of people simply smashing the place up and stealing from it in broad daylight. As well as it being an eyesore, I honestly just fear for their safety.
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“I was told by police a while back that officers wouldn’t even be attending the site anymore because the owner refuses to take responsibility. It seems he’s just washed his hands of it.”
Attempts to contact the owner were unsuccessful, but police confirmed he “does not support prosecution” and this has made taking action difficult.
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A Norfolk Police spokesman said: “We are aware of issues relating to Abbeville Lodge in Great Yarmouth and have attended the site on a number of occasions following reports of incidents, including criminal damage and burglary.
“All calls made to our control room are assessed under a grading system which takes account of threat, harm, risk, investigation, vulnerability and engagement. Previous calls to locations will be taken in account.”
Great Yarmouth Borough Council also reiterated that securing the site was the owner’s responsibility, but said it had boarded up the property on two separate occasions on public health and safety grounds.
It added that while it has “legal powers” to force the owner to take emergency action to prevent access, which it has done recently, these powers cannot then hold the owner to account once works are completed.
Garry, who didn’t want to reveal his full name, can see the abandoned building from his bedroom window. He said: “The fire was totally preventable. The council occasionally board all the doors and windows but have never prevented access to the roof or skylights. It should have been cleared out and properly secured a year and a half ago.
“The council told me it’s looking into fencing off the area, but it’s too little too late. Nobody is willing to be held accountable.”
Daniel Bycroft, from Bycroft estate agents, said the company had been instructed by the owner to sell the property after it closed down, but this was no longer the case.
He said: “It turns out there was clearly no market for this kind of property at this time, and we struggled to sell it on.
“The best thing for that place is to tear it down completely and turn it into a nice new housing development.”
But he added: “At no point was it our responsibility to maintain the site. That’s the job of the owner, who in this case lives overseas. We had to take our boards down as we had so many people calling up and blaming us for the mess there.”
The council said the application is “progressing” - but that flood risk would be considered in their decision making.
Investigations into the fire continue - but arson has so far been ruled out.