'Why no action on this eyesore?' landlady asks
A PUBLICAN has asked Mid Devon District Council why enforcement action has not yet been taken to clear up a derelict eyesore in an area of Cullompton protected for its historical features.
Anita North said business at the Market House Inn has been adversely affected by the appearance of Harlequin Valet next door, which is located in the town Conservation Area and was gutted by fire nearly three years ago.
She is angered as the same authority pursued her partner John Crossley through the courts to order him to remove his £3,500 wood-effect UPVC windows at his funeral car premises on Fore Street – because he was told it detracts from the character of the same heritage zone.
Ms North said the enforcement action against Crossley Cars led to its closure and the property has been boarded up since 2009.
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Last year traders questioned why Devon County Council was permitted to replace traditional paving with tarmac following drainage repairs in the same area of historical interest.
Ms North said she will take the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman and says the district council should compensate her as an upstairs room of the pub has been ruined by damp as the neighbouring property has no roof.
The district authority has pressurised the owners to make safe the property and hopes a planning application will bring about a complete overhaul of the building.
"We've spent a lot of money on the frontage and inside, and we have this eyesore right next to us and people get put off," Ms North said.
"We are trying to improve the look of the town and I still think John's shop (Crossley Cars) was all part of that – what they've got there now is ludicrous. We have got the Hayridge at Exeter Hill now which certainly doesn't fit in with the street scene."
A pair of flats and the roof over the launderette were gutted in the blaze in January 2010. Fire crews battled to prevent it from spreading to the Baptist church and the pub.
The council considered serving an order to achieve repairs but in October a committee decided to defer this for three-months to allow time for a planning application at the site to be determined.
Jenny Clifford, a planning officer, told Ms North that the order, known as a section 215 notice, would only achieve repairs to the viewpoints available to the public, which in this case would be the front elevation.
Mrs Clifford said: "We continue to seek a longer-term solution to the benefit of not only the property, but also this area of Cullompton. We are very aware of the negative impact of the current appearance of this property and hope that current discussions with the owner will be fruitful."
Council chief executive Kevin Finan said: "We started proceedings against the owners as enough time had elapsed since the fire to allow for restoration.
"Our action brought about a planning application which will be considered shortly. As the property is in a conservation area there are judgements to balance between appropriate development and conservation.
"The council has powers to protect conservation areas and used them in the case of Crossley cars. We do not have powers over the design of the Hayridge or footway works."