AN NHS ambulance driver who home was badly-damaged by an arson attack on the house next door has criticised delays in council action.

Luke Slomka's property at 16 Cobden Street in Darwen was affected by the January fire at neighbouring number 18.

The 44-year-old’s insurers paid out £32,000 to carry out extensive repairs to his home but they have declined to do further work until the gutted house next door is made waterproof.

Blackburn with Darwen Council housing officers have been trying to persuade the owner of 18 Cobden Street to get the property up to scratch and last month started the process of seeking a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) as a last resort.

Now Mr Slomka, under pressure at work because of the Coronavirus outbreak, has expressed frustration at the delay leaving his house almost uninhabitable.

He said: "There has been a small amount of work done by the owner.

"My house still has water coming into it from next door.

"My damp bedroom brings on my childhood asthma so I sleep downstairs on the sofa.

"Even the lounge is becoming too bad to sleep in however with the rising damp despite having my heating on 12 hours a day.

"I was given the impression the council was going to buy the house but it seems the owner is going to be given ever more time.

"The last 15 months have taken a toll on my mental health.

"Living like this is just not a reasonable expectation in a modern society."

A Blackburn with Darwen Council spokeswoman said: "The empty properties team is now in regular contact with the owner of 18 Cobden Street.

"Officers carried out a full internal inspection of the property two weeks ago.

"Given the external appearance they were surprised to find internal works to re-create the rooms damaged by fire at the rear have been carried out.

"It was agreed that fortnightly inspections would be carried out.

"Following government advice re Covid-19, council officers inspections are now suspended, so we have asked the owner to provide photographic evidence of works on a fortnightly basis.

"Approval has been given to for a CPO application and which is being prepared and will be submitted as soon as possible

"The owner will have the right to object and the council fully expects him to do so. This will trigger a Public Local Inquiry."