IT’S just over two years since a Basingstoke housing complex was destroyed in one of the town’s worst-ever arson attacks – but now it has well and truly risen from the ashes.

Last week, residents raised a cheer as the site was officially declared open, bringing the project to a happy ending.

That had certainly seemed a long way away when the complex, in Gershwin Road, Brighton Hill, went up in flames on September 10, 2010.

More than 100 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze, which caused £5.5million of damage, and nearby residents had to be evacuated.

In July this year, 44-year-old Jo Palmer, a security guard working on site at the time, was jailed for a total of six years and two months for deliberately starting the fire and for perverting the course of justice. Last Friday, Hampshire Fire and Rescue’s Chief Fire Officer John Bonney spoke of his pride at seeing the flagship complex rise from the ashes.

“What made the fire all the more devastating was that it was such an important community asset,” said Mr Bonney. “Now, we have got a facility that is second to none.”

Newman Court is one of four Extra-Care developments that is being piloted by Hampshire County Council ahead of their recently announced £45million investment in similar projects in the county. The Brighton Hill project has been supported by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

Extra-Care schemes aim to give older people more independence. Residents of the 64 apartments are able to come and go as they please, but they also have easy access to on-site nursing and care if required.

At Newman Court, developers Saxon Weald have included a restaurant, art and crafts room, computer suite, hair salon, and a sensory garden. “We know there are older people who are living in nursing homes who are not as comfortable as they should be,” said Councillor Felicity Hindson, the county council’s executive member for adult services. “Here, there is care on site 24/7, and people have their own apartment with a sign on the door. “People feel more secure, and if they need help, it is there to hand. And people get to enjoy living in a community.”

The first resident to move in after the builders left in March was 68-year-old Mike Smith, from Silchester, a retired Army major with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment.

“I have had a new lease of life,” said the granddad-of-eight, who is responsible for organising coach trips and outings for residents. “There are a lot of nice people here, and everybody gets on.”