Citizens advice forced to relocate following Fakenham arson attack

The fire damaged Fakenham Connect building. Picture: Kathryn Cross

The fire damaged Fakenham Connect building. Picture: Kathryn Cross - Credit: Archant

Fakenham’s citizens advice office has been forced to move to a new location during its busiest time of the year, following an arson attack.

The advice office had been located in the Fakenham Connect building but was closed after suffering significant damage on January 3, when a fire was deliberately ignited in a nearby bin which quickly spread to the building.

The resulting water and smoke damage has meant that many of the services located in the building have only been able to reopen and operate at a limited capacity.

Anticipating their busiest time of the year, the Norfolk Citizens Advice office has opted to temporarily re-locate to the Fakenham library on Oak Street, where it will open on January 15.

The charity said they expect the last day of January to be the busiest day of the year for people seeking help with their debts. Analysis of national data from the past 12 months reveals that on January 31, 2017, the advice centre helped 2,800 people, 30pc above the daily average.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) confirmed that the building partially reopened ahead of schedule and services such as Fakenham Town Council and the Registrar are back to normal.

The NNDC has had to temporarily move their customer services team to a different part of the building and the DWP office is operating by appointment only.

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On Monday, 24-year-old Stuart Steele from Fakenham was charged with four arson offences, including the attack on Fakenham Connect.

He was also charged with criminal damage, attempted theft and possession of a dangerous weapon.

Mr Steele was arrested at around 11.30am on Saturday morning and was remanded in police custody over the weekend before appearing in Norwich Magistrates Court on Monday.

Mr Steele has been bailed until April 1.

Following the arrest, Inspector Edward Brown said: “It was down to the vigilance of a member of the public that we managed to track down the individual and arrest them, so we thank the public for their support.”

The Citizens Advice office will be open from 10am to 3pm on Mondays and Thursdays at the new Oak Street location until further notice.

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