Wirral council will today take over the site of the New Ferry explosion - as the evidence-gathering stage of the police investigation has ended.

Security staff working for the council will replace police around the perimeter of the blast site but the scene remains sealed off to the public.

Despite this major step in the investigation - Merseyside Police said it is still trying to establish the cause of the blast which injured 30 people and left one person critical.

Council officers and contractors will now be able to assess all the affected buildings and start work to secure properties and make them safe so owners and tenants can retrieve their belongings.

The council says keeping the area around the scene safe and secure will also allow insurance companies to carry out their own assessments.

Recovery teams have already met with affected people on a block by block basis and provided details of what they should expect in the next few days and weeks.

Once the council takes control of the site, these plans will be enacted as quickly as possible.

Work has begun on clearing debris at the epicentre of the major gas explosion in New Ferry, Wirral. Photo by James Maloney

Wirral Council鈥檚 lead officer in the recovery phase in New Ferry David Ball said: 鈥淭he direct contact we have had with residents and business owners has been very positive in allowing us to give them an honest, initial appraisal and answer any questions and concerns they have as best we can.

鈥淲hat will happen now is we will draw up a timetable to carry out any site clearances we need to do and make these buildings secure and safe enough to allow people to get in and collect some items.

鈥淭hey are aware that for many of them it could be many months before their properties are able to be occupied permanently again. We will keep in contact with them and let them know when we are able to take them in temporarily ?we anticipate that will happen early next week.?/p>

The council and its contractors will be working over the weekend to start clearing areas wherever possible.

While the council moves onto this next phase of the recovery operation, the area around the site will remain closed to members of the public.

This includes keeping the affected part of Boundary Road closed to traffic until further notice.

Mr Ball added: 鈥淧eople have been very patient and understanding so far and we expect that support to continue while we move to this next phase of the clear up.

鈥淓veryone should be assured that we are moving closer to getting New Ferry moving and open for business again in the wake of the terrible incident on March 24 and we will get there as quickly and effectively as possible.?/p>

Lewis Jones, 21, who lives in New Ferry. Pictured right, with Jake O'Brien
Lewis Jones, 21, who lives in New Ferry. Pictured right, with Jake O'Brien

The blast site and immediate area was behind a cordon for more than a week as Merseyside Police, Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service, Wirral council, the Health and Safety Inspectorate and National Grid carried out investigations into the cause of the explosion.

Investigations on site have now concluded and Merseyside Police is continuing to work with specialists to identify what happened.

There will be a further update meeting for residents, traders and the wider community at 5.30pm on Monday April 10 2010 at St Mark鈥檚 Church Hall.

The contact centre which has opened up at New Ferry Village Hall to support affected people remains open until Wednesday April 12.