DEMOLITION work is about to start on burnt-out council offices destroyed in an arson attack.

Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire District Council staff have been in temporary accommodation at Milton Park after a fire wrecked their offices in Benson Lane, Crowmarsh Gifford, near Wallingford in January 2015.

Now council leaders plan to build a new headquarters on the torched site, which is owned by South Oxfordshire District Council.

After the possibility of rebuilding the fire-damaged offices was ruled out, a decision was taken last year that the local authorities should return and rebuild a new headquarters.

SODC leader, John Cotton, said: "Demolition is just the beginning of the process so it's early days at the moment.

"The details of what the new building will be like have not yet been finalised and it could take a couple of years to complete the new building after the demolition is complete

"In the meantime our office at Milton Park works well for us.

"Milton Park is a great site near Didcot but a lot of us look forward to being back in Crowmarsh Gifford."

The planning application submitted by the council said bulldozers are expected to move in on March 14 and the demolition could take until July 14 to complete.

The application says: "Following the fire in 2015 it has been decided that the building is unsuitable for re-use, due to problems with its structural integrity.

"The most cost-effective solution will be to redevelop the site."

Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, Matthew Barber, said earlier that returning to the Benson Lane site offered the best value for residents, after other options were explored.

The new building is expected to include a chamber for South Oxfordshire District Council's meetings.

It is understood that the Vale council's committees will continue using The Beacon in Wantage.

Andrew Main, 47, from Rokemarsh, near Wallingford, admitted starting the blaze and was detained in a mental health unit in May 2015.

Howard Chadwick funeral directors, close to the entrance of the council site, had to be rebuilt after it was also attacked.

The blaze at the funeral parlour caused an estimated £100,000 worth of damage and staff received messages of support from around the globe.

Alastair Cox, who helps to run the funeral business, said: "It's taken far too long to get to this stage – I know people living in the village have got fed up with having this burnt-out building on their doorstep.

"But it's definitely a good thing that the council staff are coming back –it might not be so good for the traffic but it will be good for shops and businesses in Wallingford to have those customers again."

Main also admitted setting alight a thatched cottage in Rokemarsh.

Oxford Crown Court heard the estimated cost of damage from the fires was about £20m.