Support Fakenham firefighters on first anniversary of Aldiss fire

Fakenham firefighters are preparing for a charity cycle ride at the weekend. Pictured (from left) Ga

Fakenham firefighters are preparing for a charity cycle ride at the weekend. Pictured (from left) Gary Thorpe, Chris Smith, Mark Edge, Jamie Francis and Darren Leach. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

They’re setting off tomorrow on a 400-mile sponsored bike ride, visiting all 42 of Norfolk’s fire stations, to raise money for the Fire Fighters Charity.

Fire in Fakenham town centre.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Fire in Fakenham town centre.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

And they’re hoping to return to a party atmosphere in the Market Place, when they complete their trek on Monday afternoon.

Fakenham mayor Jeremy Punchard said: “The people of the town should come out and support their local heroes. They’re used to doing arduous things in their job, but 100 miles a day, 400 miles in total, that’s quite something bearing in mind they’re not professional cyclists.”

The ride marks a year since the fire in the former Aldiss building in the heart of Fakenham. Flames tore through the Original Factory Shop, which leased the building, on the morning of Sunday, May 25. The former department store, which had stood at the centre of town for a century, was completely destroyed, along with seven flats and two neighbouring shops.

Fourteen fire crews from across Norfolk battled the blaze, watched by a large crowd.

The scene in Fakenham town centre, after the fire in the town at the weekend. Picture: Ian Burt

The scene in Fakenham town centre, after the fire in the town at the weekend. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Two people were rescued from the burning building. Sunday service at the Parish Church was abandoned and people living nearby evacuated from their homes. A Let’s Fight for Fakenham appeal fund, launched by the Times and Eastern Daily Press, raised £10,000 to help those whose homes were destroyed or damaged.

Today, we can reveal that plans are at an advanced stage to redevelop the empty site on the Upper Market Place, which the fire left behind.

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Tim Summers, Aldiss company secretary, said pre-application plans have been submitted to North Norfolk District Council.

He added: “The process has been time consuming as all stakeholders have been consulted fully – the Aldiss family, the tenant of the building – the Original Factory Shop, the owners of the Currys building, North Norfolk District Council’s planning department and others.

“Architects have been appointed and the new building will be in keeping with the rest of the historic town centre. Unfortunately the iconic façade on the Aldiss building will not be replaced but the intention is to have a building that fits into the Georgian theme of the market square, providing new retail space and residential flats above the Currys building as before.”

Mr Summers said a formal planning application was expected to follow shortly.

“Once agreed the business of tendering the new build can start in earnest and work can begin to rebuild a very important part of the centre of Fakenham,” he said.

Mr Summers said the Aldiss family would be donating £1,000 towards the firefighters’ sponsored ride in recognition of crews’ heroism on the day of the blaze.

He added: “The Aldiss family would like to wish them every success in raising funds for such a worthwhile cause and will donate £1,000 in recognition of their splendid efforts and as a thank you for their brave actions on the day of the fire.”

Crew manager Mark Edge, from Fakenham fire station said an additional £4,500 had been raised before crews take to the saddle tomorrow. He admitted he is not a keen cyclist.

“I hate it, if I’m honest,” he said. “Nobody among the whole group is what you’d call a keeen cyclist.

“It was an idea someone came up with, that seemed like a good idea at the time.”

After leaving Hunstanton at 7am tomorrow, riders will vsiit stations in West Norfolk, finishing at Swaffham.

On Saturday, they will ride around South Norfolk, finishing at Hethersett. On Sunday, they will visit stations in Norwich and the east of the county. On Monday, they will be riding around north Norfolk, finishing at Fakenham between 4.30 and 5.30pm.