‘Contortionist’ blamed for empty shop mess

Honiton Town Council debates state of Britannia-owned empty shop units in Lace Walk.

The state of empty premises in Lace Walk has been flagged up by a town councillor concerned about the mess left by posters in empty shop windows.

Councillor Roy Coombs, at a meeting of the town council’s policy and finance committee last week, raised concerns about the number of posters being displayed in the empty Age UK unit.

He said: “There has been a reluctance to have a display in case the owners would be liable for business rates as there must not be advertising. There are notices about the circus and stunt shows - these are clearly advertising. Does that not attract business rates?”

Cllr Coombs stated that there was a “whole pile” of posters just on the floor of the building and questioned why those putting them up had access to the property, which he felt should be stopped.

Cllr Liz Tirard said: “These posters are not put up with the permission of the owners.”

Mr Coombs added: “Occasionally, there have been posters put in the letterboxes. In some cases they have been stuck on the outside of the window – I understand that.

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“At least some of those I have mentioned have been stuck on by someone. Unless they are a contortionist, they must have a key to get in. The locks ought to be changed, because they are stuck on the inside.”

Cllr Tirard pointed out that business rates for those units were high and said: “When I left Age Concern, the rent was �26,000 a year. That is why Age Concern pulled out.”

Cllr John Zarczynski added: “There is nothing worse than walking past a shop that is empty and looks messy inside. Surely, as a council, we should have a policy if a shop ceases trading the windows must be blacked out in some form?”

Cllr Sharon Pavey said this would stop people looking inside who could be perspective buyers or leaseholders.

The chairman of the Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Colin Wright, has previously described the empty shop units, owned by Britannia, as “disgusting and detrimental to the town” and has written to leaseholders to raise his concerns.