Review of council's compulsory purchase powers could see arcade removed

PUBLISHED: 11:34 15 November 2009 | UPDATED: 11:01 07 July 2010

Council chiefs are rewriting tough compulsory purchase policies which could become the "last resort" in a bid to remove a burnt-out eyesore from Wells quayside.

Council chiefs are rewriting tough compulsory purchase policies which could become the “last resort” in a bid to remove a burnt-out eyesore from Wells quayside.

Grays Arcade and an adjoining shop were severely damaged by fire in January 2005.

But disputes between the Gray family over ownership have hampered opportunities for its redevelopment.

It has caused mounting frustration and strengthened calls for North Norfolk District Council to use public money to bring the boarded-up building back into community use.

Senior officers have always stressed that an enforced buy-out would only be used when all other negotiation options had been exhausted.

But deputy chief executive Sheila Oxtoby has dropped the strongest hint yet that the council could step in to bring an end to the long-running problem.

She has begun a review of North Norfolk's outdated compulsory purchase policy in a “proactive” move to ensure it was legally fit for use, if needed.

She said: “It is really about making sure we have got all the procedures in place and up-to-date and I am confident that if we do reach the stage where we need to use them, they will be fit for purpose.

“That is not to say we will use them. It is an absolute last resort. Apart from the legal complexities it does not fit with our ethos, but when you get a building like this in Wells which is impacting on the community and the visitor attraction, the reason we have these powers is so you are able to step in.”

The owner of the neighbouring Yellow Shop, Lincolnshire-based businessman Chris Isaac, drew up ideas to turn his part of the site into a café and wine bar, but these plans have also yet to be formally submitted.

District and town councillor Joyce Trett said: “It has gone on far too long and the crunch has come now after nearly five years. But I am so pleased things are moving in the right direction now. For everybody's sake, including the Gray family, we certainly want things to come to an amicable agreement but the threat of compulsory purchase might help.”

Kay Gelder, whose late parents Donald and Emily Gray opened the arcade in 1960, said: “I, along with the majority of people in Wells, would like something done about the arcade because it has now been nearly five years since it was destroyed by fire and I was heart-broken to see it go up in flames.

“I hope that it can be returned to its former glory in such a prominent site on the quayside.”

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