A NEW building is to be constructed at the site of council headquarters near Wallingford devastated in an arson attack.

South Oxfordshire District Council announced yesterday it intends to move back to its former site in Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford.

Council staff have been in temporary accommodation along with staff from Vale of White Horse District Council after the blaze in January 2015 destroyed the £10m offices the two councils shared.

Staff moved into a vacant building in Milton Park, Didcot, six months after the fire, where they have been ever since.

During that time the councils investigated a wide range of options for their permanent home, and have concluded that the most cost-effective solution is to move back to the site owned by South Oxfordshire District Council.

John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: "Crowmarsh has been the home of our council more or less since its inception, and it’s great news to be going back home.

"It’s the right choice for the council, it’s the right choice for our residents.

"We’ll lead the way for councils up and down the country by building an excellent and efficient headquarters that we can be proud of."

Matthew Barber, leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: "We have explored a range of options available for our permanent home, and there’s no doubt now that Crowmarsh represents the best value for our residents, as it was before the fire.”

The councils, which employ about 400 staff in total, will build a new, smaller headquarters on the site.

The building will include a new council chamber for South Oxfordshire’s committee meetings, while the Vale council's committees will continue to be held in The Beacon in Wantage.

The offices were virtually destroyed on January 15, 2015, when Andrew Main, 47, of nearby Rokemarsh, set them alight, together with the neighbouring Howard Chadwick funeral parlour and a cottage in the village of Rokemarsh.

The funeral parlour was completely refurbished and Main, of Rokemarsh, was detained under the Mental Health Act indefinitely after pleading guilty to four counts of arson with intent to endanger life.

Last year Mr Cotton said one possible option was using the site of the burnt-out headquarters for retirement homes.

But traders' group Wallingford in Business urged the local authority to return.

Spokeswoman Elaine Hornsby said after the blaze the move by council staff to Milton Park had had a damaging effect on trade in sandwich shops and other businesses in Wallingford.

Council spokesman Gavin Walton said staff were not due to move back to the new building at Crowmarsh until March 2020 and would remain at the Milton Park base until then.

Philip Tremayne, who lives in Crowmarsh Gifford, said: "The site is an absolute eyesore so anything that can be done to tidy it up will be welcomed.

"We will watch this closely to see how quickly progress is being made."