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Fire-ravaged Wells arcade set for purchase order

PUBLISHED: 11:18 29 April 2010 | UPDATED: 11:17 07 July 2010

Grays amusement arcade in Wells was destroyed by fire in 2005.

Grays amusement arcade in Wells was destroyed by fire in 2005.

Chris Hill

Council chiefs said the owners of fire-ravaged buildings on Wells quayside still have an opportunity to develop the site before compulsory purchase powers are enforced.

Council chiefs said the owners of fire-ravaged buildings on Wells quayside still have an opportunity to develop the site before compulsory purchase powers are enforced.

The prominent Grays Arcade and the adjoining former Yellow Shop have been boarded up ever since they were severely damaged by a blaze in January 2005.

But with no change to the burnt-out eyesore after five years of negotiations, North Norfolk District Council has decided to intervene.

Senior officers have written to the owners of both properties to advise of their intention to issue a compulsory purchase order (CPO), and the council's cabinet has been asked to approve the tough measure if a suitable buyer can be found.

The council hopes to secure sufficient interest from developers to make a CPO at the end of July, which would be followed by a 21-day objection period.

But, throughout this process, deputy chief executive Sheila Oxtoby said the council would be prepared to listen to any plans from the current owners if they were in line with a development brief which has been drafted for the site.

“We are writing to both owners of the site, and they may be willing to enter into voluntary negotiations,” she said. “But failing that we are making a CPO, subject to there being sufficient interest in the property.”

Ownership disputes within the Gray family have prevented any concrete plans being made for the former arcade. By contrast, the owner of the neighbouring former Yellow Shop, Lincolnshire-based businessman Chris Isaac, did draw up plans last year to turn his part of the site into a café and wine bar.

But although pre-application talks were held with district planners, they did not result in a formal submission.

Mrs Oxtoby said: “While there has been more willingness shown on the part of one owner, there has still been no development on the site after five years. If either landowner is able to come forward with a proposal which is in line with the development brief, then we would not exclude them from the negotiations.”

The draft development brief does not prescribe the exact specifications of an acceptable development, but a mixed-use development incorporating housing and retail use is considered the most favoured solution.

Neither the Gray family nor Mr Isaac were available for comment yesterday.

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