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.
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…
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…