Council acts to force sale of derelict Devonport building

The Council is taking action to force the sale of a derelict and unsafe Grade 2 listed building which has been empty since a fire nine years ago.

Plymouth City Council is starting enforced sale action under the Law of Property Act 1925, a former snooker club Pot Black – also known as the Former Mechanics Institute at 18-20 Duke Street in Devonport.

The action is going ahead after Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Co-operatives and Housing approved a delegated decision to use these legal powers to push the owners towards a resolution.

The Council has previously served owners with a Town and Country Planning Act 190 Section 215 improvement notice. No appeal was lodged and the compliance period ended on 30 June.  The owner of the building was also fined in 2010 for failing to comply with a Section 215 notice in 2009.

Councillor Penberthy said: “We have had to take this action on this eyesore of a building, because all other avenues have failed.

“The former Pot Black building is of historical interest but has fallen into disrepair. The interior is in a filthy state inhabited by pigeons breeding and making a mess everywhere.

“Local residents have been regularly complaining about the state of the building and obstruction to the pavements over many years; we cannot continue hope that the owners will change their behaviour and need to step in for the good of residents and nearby businesses.”

Because the building is unsafe, the owner has been served several notices under the Building Act 1984 in relation to a dangerous structure. A hoarding was put up around the property to protect members of the public from falling masonry.

Councillor Penberthy added: “A huge amount of effort has gone into improving the Devonport area over the last 10 years and this building is very much letting the area down.”
“We have no option but to intervene to ensure this property is sold for a fair price without further delay to recover the debts owed to the Council and to bring it back to use.”

The process works in the same way as a mortgage company sells a property to recover mortgage arrears. The Council does not take ownership of the property, but it gives the Council the ability to sell it.

The owners owe the Council debts incurred by Building Control carrying out work in default of notices served in relation to the Building Act 1984 relating to dangerous structures.