More than two years after a devastating fire destroyed art studios and offices, nothing has been done to repair the building.

On July 7, 2018, a fire ravaged part of the Tower Building at St Michael’s Trading Estate in Bridport and while scaffolding has been erected to protect the building, work to rebuild has still not started.

A number of artists, business owners and residents have been adversely affected by the delay in building works.

Carol Murless, whose home backs onto the building, has scaffolding in her courtyard and said the wait is ‘beyond a joke’.

She said: “I didn’t mind it short term, but I never imagined it was going to take this long. It is beyond a joke now.

“I didn’t realise it would take up half the courtyard, be that high and be up for this long. On a windy night the plastic on the scaffolding can be very noisy.

“We will be looking for compensation. Six months I would have accepted but two years is beyond it. We have been patient long enough.”

Artist David Brooke, who shared a unit at St Michael’s Trading Estate with fellow artist Caroline Ireland, had to find a new studio after the fire. The pair managed to find one in Morcombelake, but it is much smaller, and they are not able to open to the public.

He said: “It’s of huge disadvantage not being able to open to the public because we used to do the Dorset Art Weeks and Bridport Open Studios events, which a huge amount of people came to, so that’s affected us financially.

“We would love to get back to a similar studio - we hope it will be the same one - but it depends on what they can do with the building.”

Karl Dixon and his wife Christine, of Dixon Memorials, tried to continue working in their water damaged unit in the building, which they had been in since 1980.

“For us it has been very disruptive,” he said. “There was not another suitable unit for us to move in to, so we sort of stayed working under difficult conditions. Then the scaffolding came along, and we had to get out and fortunately the landlord found us a unit.

“It has been a very sad working environment really.

“We have got a couple of bits of machinery in there - we’ve got a stone cutting saw that’s too big to move, it’s buried underneath the damaged ceiling and we were hoping we could get around it for a period of time, but it has been two years now so we have had to change our working practice and what was running smoothly as a business has been problematic.

“Why can’t they get on with it?”

Roy Gregory owns Clocktower Music and his shop is now hidden from the road by the scaffolding.

He said: “The rebuild after the fire has dragged on and the fall in footfall to business units has been very noticeable.

“The result of the rebuild not starting continues to make attracting customers difficult. The landlords, Haywards, have looked to assist the tenants which is appreciated, and I believe they have the full support of business owners on the estate in their attempts to start the rebuild ASAP.”

Clearing of the building took place last year when scaffolding was put up, but owners Hayward and Co are having to get more quotes for rebuild works.

In a statement sent to tenants, Martin Ridley, of Haywards and Co, said: “While some of you are more affected than others, the continuing presence and scale of the scaffolding on the east end of the Tower Building continues to be not just an eyesore but also a deterrent to possible visitors.

“Negotiations with loss adjusters are requiring this to be done in a specific way which unfortunately will cause the placing of a contract with the successful bidder to probably roll on into August. This means that work is unlikely to begin until September.”

Mr Ridley said: “It’s just a very sad sight and we feel we have done all we can to move things forward as fast as we can but it seems to me we get over one hurdle and another one comes along, we appreciate the loss adjuster’s job is to look after the interests of the insurers.”