City centre life slowly returns to normal after Lancaster gym fire

Shops closed and cordoned off in Penny Street, Lancaster, after Thursday's fire.

Shops closed and cordoned off in Penny Street, Lancaster, after Thursday's fire.

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Business in Lancaster was returning to normal this week after the havoc caused by Thursday’s fire.

Much of the city centre, including St Nicholas Arcades, Penny Street, Cheapside and part of Market Street, was closed off for several hours while the emergency services fought the fire.

But while many shops reopened on Thursday afternoon, access along Penny Street only fully reopened on Sunday, and scaffolding still covers several shops on one side.

Some businesses, including Clinton’s and Vision Express, reopened at the start of the week.

But The Perfume Shop, Thornton’s, Ernest Jones and Accessorize all remained closed this week.

A Thornton’s spokesman said: “Thornton’s can confirm that its Lancaster store suffered smoke and water damage from the fire. We are currently undertaking the necessary repairs and hope to be in a position to reopen the store next weekend.”

Business Improvement District manager Paul Cusimano was at his shop, Joseph and Co in North Road, when the fire broke out.

“It was a bit of a surreal scenario,” he said. “The smoke was drifting down the street and people were appearing out of it to come into the shop, and then disappearing again as they went down the road.

“People still came into town on Friday and Saturday, I don’t think they were put off.

“Town is still open and it’s great to see that businesses are offering to help out those at Inspire.”

St Nicholas Arcades centre manager Paul Smith said it was business as usual in the shopping centre from Thursday afternoon.

“The fire brigade allowed us to reopen shops a few hours after the fire,” he said.

“Everybody had been told to evacuate because of the smoke.

“The only real effect we saw was the number of customers that afternoon because people were avoiding coming into town.

“But everything was back to normal for us after that.”

Lancaster District Chamber of Commerce manager John O’Neill said the incident was well managed by everyone involved.

“The fire put into practice Lancaster City Council’s emergency action plan which was honed after the December floods,” he said.

“The main intention was to make the area safe. While it was inconvenient to the public for a while, it was important everyone was safe.

“All credit must go to the county and city councils and the emergency services for swinging into action quickly.

“Once the area was made safe it was then a case of opening all the businesses up again wherever possible to allow for the minimal disruption.”
Mr O’Neill said he hoped the building could be refurbished as much as possible to its original condition.

“Because it’s in a preservation area it’s important to keep the building if possible,” he said.

“But you just can’t plan for these things happening. You never want to see things like this but hopefully now things can get back to normal.”