South Oxfordshire District Council building future in doubt

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Media captionSouth Oxfordshire council has released the first video from within the damaged building

Council workers may never return to fire-damaged offices after a suspected arson attack.

South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse offices in Crowmarsh Gifford were 85% gutted by a fire on 15 January.

Council leader John Cotton said: "We intend to take some time in considering the future of the Crowmarsh site."

Staff are working from home and out of temporary offices while the council secures a temporary office for up to three years.

There are 250 staff working at Abbey House in Abingdon while others are working from Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot and The Beacon in Wantage

"It's chaos for the staff. Some are working from their bedrooms and study areas at home," Mr Cotton, from South Oxfordshire council said.

An assessment is due to be carried out on the building to see if repairs are viable or if the building will have to be knocked down and re-built.

The council said it has roughly £4m business continuity cover, which will cover the additional costs caused by the fire.

Image caption Two other fires started shortly after 03:00 GMT at an undertaker's business and a thatched cottage

The planning department was badly damaged and the council has asked people to resubmit proposals sent in via post or online after 13 January.

Mr Cotton said: "It's in a pretty poor state - it's pretty shocking inside - an assessment is being carried out to see if it's worth the time and effort to repair it."

As well as the council offices, two other fires started shortly after 03:00 GMT at an undertaker's business and a thatched cottage

In total, 27 crews tackled the three blazes at the offices.

Andrew Main, 47, is due to appear at Oxford Crown Court on 10 April charged with arson.

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

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

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