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Businesses hit hard by Norfolk gas blast on industrial estate

Explosion at Rackheath Industrial Estate.; View of the aftermath

Explosion at Rackheath Industrial Estate.; View of the aftermath

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2011

Businesses are counting the cost of the devastating explosion which wiped KC Café in Rackheath off the map on Wednesday night.

"I would think the damage is going to be in the tens of thousands."

Dave Barkshire - Dave Barkshire Motorcycles

Businesses are counting the cost of the devastating explosion which wiped KC Café in Rackheath off the map on Wednesday night.

Most of the hundreds of businesses sharing Rackheath Industrial Estate were unable to operate as normal yesterday, as emergency services sealed off the only access road in and out. Less than quarter of a mile along Wendover Road after entering the industrial estate is the business that bore the biggest brunt of KC Café’s explosion, piping suppliers Stratstan. Their business was the closest to the road in a row of industrial units and had the side of its part of the building directly next to the café ripped away.

Norfolk Fire Service said yesterday that early signs indicated an accidental gas explosion had caused the blast which was felt in most places within a 10-mile radius. With debris still being blown around by a gusty wind yesterday, the fire service and its various partners were not happy to allow traffic to start passing by again, leaving businesses unable to get vehicles in or out.

Although there was some good news this morning when Anglian Buses were able to resume their A47, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 830, 999 and L2 services that were left trapped at their base on the industrial estate.

More than 500 businesses are based at Rackheath Industrial Estate and it is thought the financial loss of the dramatic incident will run into tens of thousands of pounds.

Tilia Properties, which owns about two-thirds of the premises on the industrial estate, have been working alongside the emergency services to get tenants back as quickly as possible. Tilia director Nick Hovey said; “While a terrible incident, the good news is nobody was hurt but unfortunately there has been considerable damage to a number of buildings which has clearly impacted on some of our tenants’ operations.”

Those efforts came to fruition late yesterday afternoon when Wendover Road was re-opened for private use at about 4.30pm.

Dave Barkshire Motorcycles are based less than 100m from the blast. Owner Dave Barkshire said: “There are bikes ruined and all the fixtures and fittings are completely smashed.

“I would think the damage is going to be in the tens of thousands but we are not allowed in there and there is no power at the moment anyway. It’s going to take a lot of time to sort out. The bike season starts at the end of February so we have been putting a big effort into getting ready and things were going well. We have only been at the industrial estate six months so it’s really hard to take but there is a big community spirit so I’m sure everyone will pull together.”

Mark Jones, director of East Anglia Car Recycling is already expecting a couple of thousand pounds worth of damage as one of his company’s vans was parked on the café car park. He said: “I would say as a rough estimate we are looking at a £1,000 loss at least but we had a van parked on the café of the car park and that is going to be a write-off.

“We couldn’t get near the van today but we could see it had been pushed on to the posts surrounding the car park and the damage of the blast, so that is going to be on top of the lost business.

“There’s a few hundred in wages we have to write off as well because everyone still managed to get into work, but it’s just been 
that no one has been 
doing what they would normally be doing.

“Operating in these times is still very much hard work but added disruptions such as these it makes it even harder.”

Jonathan Neville, managing director of Polyprint, who had night staff shaken by the blast, admits the fallout could have been worse had their building been closer to the explosion. “We’re possibly the biggest employer on the estate and we’re up and running on all machines but no deliveries in or out,” he said. “We provide a lot of the polythene used for mail in the post and a lot for food packaging as well.

“We managed to minimise costs but we were not able to get goods in or out and have had to reorganise our deliveries.”

Do you have a story to tell about the explosion? Email david.freezer@archant.co.uk.

Go to www.eveningnews24.co.uk to read your experiences of the Rackheath explosion.

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