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Fears Fat Cats building could collapse following fire

fat cat fire, northampton, bridge street, january 2011, chronicle & echo, pictures from Northampton Borough Council

fat cat fire, northampton, bridge street, january 2011, chronicle & echo, pictures from Northampton Borough Council

SCAFFOLDERS are working as quickly as possible to secure the Fat Cat Cafe Bar building in the hope Bridge Street can re-open in time for night-time trade tomorrow.

In the aftermath of Monday’s blaze, a section of the town centre road is still closed off to pedestrians and cars as parts of the old Angel Hotel, which houses the Balloon Bar and Fat Cats, continued to collapse internally yesterday.

Northampton Borough Council has served a notice on the owners of the historic listed building to secure it as soon as possible, and has appointed contractors to put scaffold up in order to secure it and save it from collapse.

Of particular concern is a freestanding outside wall which firefighters fear could fall into neighbouring club, NBs.

It is hoped the work will be completed by tomorrow, allowing one lane of the street to reopen and pedestrians to use the entire street.

Following the scaffolding work, a hard wooden barrier will be placed around the building, which is expected to reach into the middle of the street and could be in place for months.

Fire crews have been returning periodically, using thermal imaging cameras, to ensure there were no ‘hot spots’ that might re-ignite.

But control of the building has now been formally handed back to the owners and tenants.

Station manager, Neal King, who was at the scene throughout yesterday, said: “Over Tuesday night the chimney moved and so did the gable end, towards NBs.

“We have got a collapse of the first and second floor down to the ground floor, making the whole building structurally unsafe.

“Our job now is to carry out an investigation but we can’t do that until the building is safe.

“We have been in meetings with the local authorities because we are aware that it is a very busy road and it is important to keep the town centre moving and working as much as we can.”

He added that it could cause months of disruption for the street, which attracts thousands of drinkers each weekend.

He said: “If Fat Cat Cafe Bar opens within six months they will have done very well, with the building the way it is.

“The barricade around the building and in the street could be up for months as well.”

The complicated work has been designed by a structural engineer.

A scaffolder working for contractors Midlands Scaffolding Services said the team was aiming to have the job completed by Friday in order for bars and clubs to open for weekend trade.

He said: “We are putting scaffolding up to support the end of the building closest to NBs, before it collapses, and then we will move on to the front.

“We will have to come right out into the street.”

Leader of Northampton Borough Council Councillor David Mackintosh said: “We are all working as hard and as quickly as we can to make this area safe and get things moving again. Anyone who has seen the images of the damage within this building will understand why the first priority is to make it safe from falling down. When that is done, we will be meeting with local business leaders to discuss what we can do to make sure our night-time economy is not affected in the long term.”

A firefighter who injured his leg during the blaze was treated at hospital for bruising but has since been released.

New aerial photos released yesterday showed the extent of the damage to the roof space. The cause of the fire has still not been determined, but it is not, at this stage, believed to have been suspicious.

The Chron revealed yesterday that burglars had struck at the premises the night before the fire, stealing £6,500 of takings from a safe. An investigation is ongoing.

 

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