Welwyn Garden City couple frustrated with council after home destroyed

Peter and Joy Butcher with their dog Portia outside their house which was damaged by a fire next door and neighbours have rallied around to help them. Picture: DANNY LOO

Peter and Joy Butcher with their dog Portia outside their house which was damaged by a fire next door and neighbours have rallied around to help them. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

A Welwyn Garden City couple feel let down by the council as they look to spend a year in temporary accommodation following a fire that engulfed their home.

Peter and Joy Butcher's house was damaged by a fire next door and neighbours have rallied around to help them. Picture: DANNY LOOPeter and Joy Butcher's house was damaged by a fire next door and neighbours have rallied around to help them. Picture: DANNY LOO

Peter and Joy Butcher have been living in temporary accommodation since a blaze destroyed their council home in St Audreys Green on Saturday, March 24.

At 3.30pm a blaze ripped through their neighbour’s house which adjoins theirs.

The couple arrived home to discover the “horror” as their beloved dog was still in the house.

Around an hour later, after Peter had rescued the pooch, the couple were told by Herts Fire and Rescue officers that it was safe to return, but at 8.30pm another fire was spotted in their neighbour’s roof.

Councillor Malcolm Cowan and Peter Butcher. Picture: Supplied.Councillor Malcolm Cowan and Peter Butcher. Picture: Supplied.

The second blaze melted the water tank – causing water to flood through their home.

The fire service carried out an investigation and concluded that the cause of the subsequent fire was down to smouldering remains that had entered around the soffit board.

Four months later the couple are still waiting for Welwyn Hatfield Council to start work on the propert, despite still paying rent every month while not living there.

Mr Butcher said: “It is really getting me and my wife down.

“We love living there, the neighbours are really helpful, but the council won’t give me a start date for work, and expect the work to take to next spring – a year having to live elsewhere.”

After visiting the couple’s home, Peartree Lib Dem councillor Malcolm Cowan said he couldn’t “understand the delays”.

He added: “There are only the most minor marks on walls, the electricity and gas are working.

“As far as I can see, it is just the roof and loft that need work – surely that can’t take a year?”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The fire caused significant damage and restoring the house is a major undertaking.”

She explained that the council was waiting for its contractor to provide costs for the demolition of the unsafe roof, and clearing the house of fire debris.

She added: “Once that work is completed, the next step will be preparing a condition survey for the remaining repairs.

“As we have said to them, it will take time before they can return – not least because every stage of the work, including costs, must be agreed by the insurance company before we can proceed.”

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