Council keen to find Phoenix Hotel owner after �100,000 spent on making former Chinese restaurant secure

FAILED restaurateur Nancy Wong has gone missing- leaving behind her beloved Phoenix Hotel destroyed by arsonists and unaware of a �100,000 bill from Fenland Council to make it safe.

Fenland Council has now put a legal charge on the site meaning that when it is sold it will get its money back.

“We’re still attempting to track the owner but we understand they have left the country,” said Gary Garford, corporate director.

Mr Garford said the work at the Phoenix has been arranged and funded by the council using its statutory duties under the Building Act.

“The costs have been substantial because the site has had to be completely cleared and the front wall and neighbouring buildings supported,” he said.

“Ultimately those costs will be passed on to the owner of the property. So far the owner has failed to come forward and the police have been unsuccessful in tracing her.

“However, progress is being made in that investigation and FDC is in contact with the Bank of East Asia, which has an interest in the property.

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The council has appealed for anyone who knows the whereabouts of Ms Wong, the owner, to call them on 01354 654321.

Mr Garford said: “We’ve done our job by stepping in and saving the fa�ade of the Phoenix and preserving it because of its historic nature. We will now be closing the road from September 12 so that structural steelwork can be erected on the inside the secure the building which means we can remove the scaffolding from the outside.

“One that’s done we hope we use Fenland Renaissance money- about �1,500- to paint mock windows”

Extensive repair work has been carried out at the site of the Phoenix, which was gutted by a major blaze four months ago.

Councillor Kit Owen, the Portfolio Holder for Shaping Fenland said: “The council has worked hard to protect the public and improve the appearance of these key buildings following the unfortunate fires.

“We are also working on longer term plans to help bring this historic building back into use.”

Elsewhere, contractors have begun work at the site of the former Flower Pot public house in Elm Road, which is being redeveloped to provide seven flats.

And at 1 Nene Quay, the former Belfast store, council officers are talking to the owner about his long-term plans and exploring options for redevelopment. As a short-term measure, the owner has already boarded up the ground and first floors to improve the look of the building.

Cllr Owen said: “In all three cases, FDC has either gained or is seeking full reimbursement of all the costs incurred in making the buildings safe after the fires.”

Mr Garford added that once a fire breaks out, the council had a duty to make the building safe, bringing in owners, surveyors and insurers to work with them.

“When we finish the work they reimburse us. If that invoice is not paid we go through normal debt recovery,” he said.

The Flower Pot owners had already reimbursed the council and the council was now waiting for payment from the Belfast owners.