Harlequin Valet building in Cullompton – UPDATED

Posted on: 17 April 2015

Mid Devon District Council understands the strength of local concern about this property and is working in various ways to resolve the situation.

Latest update: 17th April 2015

‘Demolition works are likely to be completed on Friday 17th April. Works to make good the exposed elevations of buildings on either side of the site and install a single storey site frontage will commence the week of the 20th April. The first step will involve the erection of scaffolding from which the work will take place. Having assessed the extent of the work now revealed following demolition, we anticipate that further works will take approximately 5 weeks.’

Previous Update: 26 March 2015

Subject to completion of the controlled asbestos removal it is still intended that the demolition will recommence next week (likely to be Thursday 2 April).

Previous Update: 11 March 2015

Demolition work started on Monday 2 March , with contractors acting on behalf of the Council starting at the rear of the site and working their way forward. The Council has now been advised of the presence on site of asbestos of a notifiable type. This is despite the asbestos survey undertaken in advance of the works finding none of this type.

Notification to the Health and Safety Executive will now take place in accordance with requirements and arrangements will be put in place to enclose the area so that safe removal can take place together with appropriate disposal. Demolition work has temporarily ceased in order to comply with these requirements and make the necessary arrangements. It will not be able to proceed again until the notifiable asbestos has been removed.

We expect demolition to recommence at the beginning of April ’.

Previous Update: 27 February 2015

Contractors acting on behalf of the Council will start demolition works on Monday 2 March. We expect demolition to take three weeks. This will then be followed by four to five weeks of works to make good the gable ends of the neighbouring properties and to erect a new 3-metre high front wall to the street. In order to reduce nuisance and disturbance to nearby properties and in the town centre during the works, the contractors will be mainly accessing the site from the rear. The Council is grateful to Mrs North, the landlady of the adjacent Market House Inn, for allowing access to the site from the rear.

Previous Update: 16 February 2015

We anticipate that the Council’s contractors will commence demolition of the building on Monday 2 March 2015.

Previous Update: 9 February 2015

At the Magistrate’s Court earlier today, the property owner, Mr James was found guilty of the offence (continued non-compliance with the requirements of the s215 notice). He was fined £3,000 and the Court also awarded the Council costs in full. The Magistrates dealt with the case in his absence.

Previous Update: 6 February 2015

The gas supplier was due to have disconnected the supply on Tuesday, 4 February 2015. We are confirming that this has been undertaken. We are also arranging for a barrel of dry cleaning chemicals on the site to be removed and safely disposed of by specialist contractors. We expect to be in a position to provide a demolition start date shortly.

The Council will be back in court on Monday, 9 February 2015 in connection with the continued prosecution of the land owner.

Previous Update: 27 January 2015

Western Power has now disconnected the power supply. The Council’s demolition contractor is undertaking checks including to the asbestos survey to ensure asbestos is dealt with appropriately. Pre-demolition checks have also revealed that whilst the gas supply to the site has been made safe, it is still connected. The Council is asking the supply company to arrange for it to be urgently disconnected. The Council anticipates that when works are able to start that they will take approximately 2 months: 3 weeks for the demolition followed by 4-5 weeks for the making good works.

The Court hearing of 19th January in connection with the continued prosecution of the land owner for failure to comply with the requirements of the section 215 notice has been adjourned following his non-attendance. A new date will be scheduled by the Court.

The Council continues to work to resolve outstanding issues as soon as possible in order to achieve the demolition and making good works.

Previous Update: 14 January 2015

The Council is expecting Western Power to undertake power supply disconnection work on 14th January 2015. Meanwhile Council is establishing arrangements with contractors to carry out the direct action works including demolition of the remaining building to ground level, removal of demolition material from the site  and making good the party walls on either side. The Council will also be liaising with owners / occupiers of the properties on either side of the site over the proposed works.

Previous Update: 9 January 2015

Since the last update the Council has been preparing to take the direct action to carry out the works. The required 28 day notice was issued on 4th December 2014 and negotiations have been taking place with the supply and distribution companies regarding the electricity supply to the site which is currently still connected. Disconnection is needed in advance of the works to ensure site safety. The Council is asking the distribution company to remove the supply as urgently as they are able to do the work. Timing for the removal of the supply rests with Western Power. A further update will be provided as soon as the date for disconnection is established.

Previous Update: 18 December 2014

Further to the update of 1st December 2014, the date for the continued prosecution of the land owner for failure to comply with the requirements of the section 215 notice has now been amended by the Court to 19th January 2015.

Previous Update: 8 December 2014

The Council’s Planning Committee has now resolved to agree the recommendations of the enforcement report considered at their meeting on 3rd December 2014 (these were set out in the update of 1st December 2014 below). This includes taking direct action and will involve the Council entering the land and carrying out the works, the cost of which will be recovered from the land owner. The Council must provide 28 days notice before doing the works and for reasons of safety will also need to ensure that the electricity supply to the site is removed in advance. The Council is now making the necessary legal and other preparations.

Previous Update: Monday, 1 December 2014

At the meeting on 3rd December 2014, the Council’s Planning Committee will consider taking additional planning enforcement related action over this site. The report recommends the following further action:

1. Direct action under the provisions of Section 219(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to allow the Local Planning Authority to enter the land and carry out works, and recover from the person who is then the owner of the land any expenses reasonably incurred by them in doing so. (These works include demolition of the remaining building to ground level, removal of demolition material from the site, making good the party walls on either side, reinstating the front elevation to at least 3 metres. Works required also include rendering, painting and the insertion of window frames).

2. In the event of direct action costs being incurred, the registering of a charge against the property with Land Registry.

3. The continuation of prosecution proceedings in relation to the land owner for failure to comply with the requirements contained within the Section 215 enforcement notice. (A Court date of 15th December 2014 has been set for these further prosecution proceedings).

More information and detail is available within the Planning Committee papers here http://www.middevon.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=10714 (Agenda item 7, page 19).

Previous Update: 16 October 2014

The Council served a section 215 (untidy land) notice on the owner, Mr William James in March of this year requiring him to tidy the land by requiring the demolition of the remaining building. The notice was not complied with and the Council prosecuted the owner for his failure to do so.

The owner pleaded guilty to the offence on 15 October in the Exeter Magistrates Court. The maximum sentence of £1,000 was reduced to £660 for an early guilty plea. In addition the Magistrates ordered the owner to pay a victim s surcharge of £66 and the Council s full costs of £1,244.

If the owner persists in not complying with the untidy land notice, the Council can commence a further prosecution, take direct action to do the work itself or seek an injunction.

Previous Update: 3 September 2014

‘In view of the fact that the range of works required by the section 215 (untidy land) notice have not taken place by 1 August, Mid Devon District Council has commenced a prosecution against the owner of the building.

The owner was served with the section 215 notice on 20 March 2014 and the Council considers that the owner has had adequate time to comply with it. The Council will only commence a prosecution as a last resort as most owners are willing to comply with an untidy land notice.’

Previous Update: 5 August 2014

The Section 215 Notice required a range of works including demolition, making good the gable end of adjacent properties and rebuilding part of the frontage by the 1st August 2014. The works required by this notice have not taken place within this timescale. The Council is currently assessing the situation and options for further action.

Previous Update:  2 June 2014

The Council has resolved to investigate redevelopment options for the site together with sources of potential funding for this. In addition the Council will be undertaking early stage preparation work towards potential future compulsory purchase action. Please note that to date no decision has been made to take compulsory purchase action. This will be the subject of future consideration pending the outcome of the section 215 notice (planning enforcement action) requiring works to be carried out on the site by 1st August 2014

 Previous Update: 21 March 2014

  • The S215 Notice (planning enforcement action) was issued in 20 March and requires a list of works to be completed. The owner has until 1 August to complete the works.

Previous Update: 12 March 2014

  • At the meeting of Planning Committee on 5 March, it was resolved to take enforcement action to require works to be carried out including demolition of the remaining building to ground level, removal of demolition material from the site, making good the party walls on either side, reinstating the front elevation to at least 3 metres (unless the most recent planning permission for the redevelopment of the site has been implemented and work has advanced to build the new front elevation to at least 3 metres high). Works required also include rendering, painting and the insertion of window frames. Three months will be given for these works to take place from the date the notice takes effect.
  • At the meeting, it was also resolved that in light of the length of time that the site had been derelict and its impact upon the area, that the Council’s Cabinet consider the option of compulsory purchase of the site together with the steps necessary to achieve it. A report will be presented to the Council’s Cabinet on this shortly.

Previous Update: 21 February 2014

  • The planning team has now reviewed options for further enforcement action to address the appearance of the property. These are set out within a report which will be considered by a meeting of the Planning Committee on 5th March 2014. The report recommends action under section 215 the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to require works including the completion of demolition of the building, making good the gable ends of the adjacent buildings and to erect a new front wall within three months of legal notice being served. The Council continues to work towards securing a long term solution to the site whilst also addressing the current appearance.

Previous Update: 19 February 2014

  • Our planning team is actively working on recommendations for the next stage of planning enforcement and we hope to be in a position to provide an update at the end of this week. A report will be considered by Planning Committee at the meeting of 5 March 2014.

Previous Update: 7 February 2014

  • The works undertaken by the owner have removed the danger that existed after the initial phase of demolition and our Building Control Manager has said that fencing can now be removed.
  • The contractors who erected the fencing have suggested that the earliest they can do this is Monday or Tuesday of next week.
  • Our Building Control Manager passed on Devon County Council’s request that the area be cleaned down and has also advised DCC that their barriers can be removed once the contractor’s fencing is gone.

Previous Update: 6 February 2014

  • All being well, the fencing can hopefully be removed tomorrow after our Building Control Manager has inspected the condition of the remainder of the building

Previous Update: 5 February 2014

  • Owner and contractor on site, removing the rest of the roof
  • Police have removed traffic lights and re-opened road
  • Due to high winds some roof slates are being blown off
  • Our Building Control Manager has assessed the situation and is arranging with Devon County Council for a partial road closure for safety reasons
  • Contractors are due on site 9am tomorrow morning (Thursday) to remove the rest of the roof

Previous Update: 5 February 2014

  • Our Building Control Manager has inspected the building and continues to monitor it. He cannot yet declare the building safe as further work is required to remove roof timbers.
  • Partial demolition work has taken place by the owners contractors but not in our opinion enough.Removal of the front elevation to first floor has taken place. We have asked for further work to take place, the contractors will return to the site possibly tomorrow or Friday either instructed by the owners and if not instructed by us. We cannot clear the site as some would want, we can only seek the minimum works necessary to make the structure safe.
  • The owner’s contractors have been told to inform the owner that the structure requires further work to make it safe, and that if this doesn’t take place we will take action.
  • Until this has been carried out the barriers will remain in place. Devon County Council is responsible for the barriers and has been informed each time these have blown over. 
  • The Planning Committee will need to consider what powers they have available to seek redevelopment or site appearance improvement. This will not be a quick process, the owner has rights of appeal against possible actions to be considered. The owner has planning permission to redevelop the site but appears either unable or unwilling to do so.

Further information on concerns relating to asbestos in this building: 

Here our Building Control Manager Ken McLaren explains that the possible risk of harm from asbestos is very low: “Our understanding is that the contractors had only so far been instructed to demolish the front of the building and it is incorrect to say that work was halted due to the presence of asbestos. While it is likely that the roof tiles may contain white asbestos, this is not uncommon in buildings of this age and poses a low risk when handled properly. We continue to put considerable pressure on the building owner to proceed with demolition of the roof of the building. When this happens, the contractors will take any necessary precautions in terms of risk assessment and adopting the correct procedures for removing asbestos. To my knowledge, no roof tiles fell onto the pavement when the building collapsed.”

Further information on planning issues relating to this building:

From a Planning perspective the appearance of the building has been a cause for concern. The Planning Service has sought to address this through negotiation with the owner, determination of planning applications and consideration of enforcement action under Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act in order to improve the appearance of the site. Please note that these planning powers under s215 relate to the appearance of the site and do not extend to structural issues. The latter are dealt with under the Building Regulations.

The Planning Service granted planning permission in January 2013 (reference 12/01534/FULL) for a revised scheme for the erection of extension and alterations to provide 1 retail unit and 5 flats, and erection of 1 single-storey dwelling to rear. The planning permission required that works start on site to implement the permission within 6 months rather than the normal 3 years in order to secure the renovation of the site as early as possible. The owner commenced work to implement this planning permission on 9th July 2013, but then stopped work due to a wish to undertake an alternative proposal. This alternative proposal has been set out within a second planning application (application 13/00763/FULL) received in June 2013. Progress on this was slow due to delays by the owner, despite efforts by the Council to resolve outstanding issues and secure a swift decision. It is to be noted that planning permissions cannot require the completion of works. This planning application has not yet been issued but we will do so as soon as we have cleared funds for the contributions towards public open space and air quality.

Enforcement action referred to above was considered by Planning Committee on several occasions and most recently in January 2013. At that time it was agreed to take legal action to secure works to improve the appearance of the site (to tidy the land) after the expiry of planning permission 12/01534/FULL if works under this permission had not progressed to a stage that improved the external appearance. The Council has been keeping this under review pending the outcome of the most recent planning application in the belief that the most effective long term solution was to secure the swift redevelopment of the site. The Council is still working to achieve this, whilst also addressing the immediate structural and safety issues.


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