What’s Next for 39 High Street

27th February 2019

 

Trying to figure out what comes next for the seriously dilapidated and dangerous living space atop 39 High Street is a bit like watching a three-way chess game in which only one party has signalled their strategy. We do know for sure that South Hams District Councillor, John Birch and the Totnes Council are pushing hard with South Hams District Council and Devon County Council for some answers as to when we can expect repairs to the property. Birch specifically has asked the SHDC what is stopping them from issuing one of two orders that insist the repairs would be done. The strategy that is unclear as of this juncture is the one being employed by the owner of the building, Belinda Cheng Nash-Smith, herself a real estate executive from the Dartmouth area.

Unavailable…

Ms. Nash-Smith has been unavailable for comment but the Pulse has uncovered several relevant points that shed light on her initial intentions. She recently advertised the property with an asking price of £175,000. She suggested to one interested party that the two-floor space could be renovated into two flats.

According to RightMove the property in June 2018 was purchased for £385,000 though it is unclear what aspects of the building this entails. Any new asking price would have to take into consideration the money needed to make the necessary repairs, which according to one contractor who inspected the property are quite substantial; “The place is a complete mess. There are areas with no flooring, the walls are coming down in places, there’s a hole in the roof and a foot of pigeon droppings underneath”, said the contractor who asked to remain anonymous.

Given the fact public safety has become an issue given tiles are now dropping off the front of the building, the first priority of local officials is to stabilize the building to stop the deterioration. That’s not going to be an easy job considering that scaffolding will be constructed and there’s a possibility that the retail operation on the ground floor might have to be closed for health and safety considerations.

The place is a complete mess

Urgent actions needed…

The two approaches that Councillor Birch identified in his letter to the SHDC are the filing of an urgent works notice and a repairs notice – two different things, one more severe than the other. As the name implies, an urgent workers notice is used where there is a pressing need or the preservation of a listed building. In a perfect world, the serving of the notice on the owner would prompt the necessary repairs. If the owner isn’t responsive, however, the local authority is allowed to carry out the repairs and invoice the owner. It’s important to point out the notice only calls for those repairs that are need to stabilize the building, prevent further decay or stop vandalism, not necessarily bring it up to any other standard. A more severe approach that is open to the SHDC is the filing of a Repairs Notice as the first step in a process that leads to the Compulsory Purchase of the property. The Repair Notice itself notifies the owner of the repairs which the local authority considers reasonably necessary for the proper preservation of the building. If two months go by without any repair work being done, SHDC could start proceedings in which it would buy the property itself.

If, after not less than two months, it appears that reasonable steps are not being taken by the owner for the proper preservation of the building the authority can begin compulsory purchase proceedings to acquire the building from the owner.

In the meantime though there is a “third party” in this framework and that is the owner of the freehold on the downstairs portion of 39 High Street, currently occupied by the clothing store Eleven. The property is currently being offered as a long leasehold for £275,000. It is a bit up in the air whether that price will hold when you consider the retail space may need to be closed for at least a couple of months during repairs on the upstairs. By the same token, the downstairs property is going to be vulnerable to sustaining damage from the repair activity.

All in all, it’s going to be an interesting story to follow. So far, the Totnes Times has done a good job of staying on top of it. There will undoubtedly more to come…

 

Feel free to comment below…

  2 comments for “What’s Next for 39 High Street

  1. Fiona Green
    28th February 2019 at 11:06 am

    I contacted the Council about this because as an historic,listed building owner myself,it behoves the owner to do repairs.
    Council Planning & Enforcement urge us to write in about this, to strengthen their case : Fiona Green

    CASE 019419 to : enforcement.team@swdevon.gov.uk

  2. Fiona Green
    28th February 2019 at 11:49 am

    On the At Risk Register number 39 is described as follows :

    39 High Street is a 3 storey, 17th Century, “deux corps de batiments” Merchants House.
    The interior has good examples of decorated plaster ceilings.
    The upper two-storeys are currently uninhabitable with a large amount of historic fabric lost due to neglect. The Conservation Department are in discussions with the owner to put a repair scheme in place, no way forward yet agreed.
    (No date & a very dated photo on the page showing the place looking fine)

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