Danger warning over Axminster shop

Broken drainpipe at town centre newsagents could be ‘lethal’ says former mayor

AN Axminster shop has been branded a possible health hazard by a leading councillor.

Former Mayor Douglas Hull says potentially “lethal” guttering hanging off walls at Martin’s newsagents is putting pedestrians at risk.

His comments came as town councillors considered calls for legal action to rid the centre of its eyesore buildings.

Councillor Paul Hawyard wants the planning authority to invoke seldom used powers to force the owners to make them safe and tidy.

He says East Devon District Council should employ “Section 215” procedures so sites like Websters Garage can be made “safe, secure and visually acceptable”.

Also on the target list would be neighbouring former Busy Bee florists shop and Martin’s, which was in such a poor state of repair councillor Hull said urgent safety work was needed there.

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And out-of-town eyesore, the former Rodney Rendell agricultural works, at Millwey, is also included.

Mr Hawyard said after 37 years of waiting for redevelopment at the Websters garage site it was time to take tough action against the owners and make them clear it up.

“We have the powers to force them to do it,” he said. “They have had enough time.”

But the town council stopped short of wielding the “big stick” – just yet.

Mayor Andrew Moulding said they should find out first what the implications were of trying to implement the Section 215 powers on developers.

“What we don’t want is to exacerbate the situation with a local developer who is trying to draw up a scheme,” he warned.

Councillor Sue Spiller said: “We might get a lot further if we work with them rather than against them. We don’ t want to create antagonism.”

Councillor Sarah Leat said the owner of Websters was not a developer and still had to sell the building. Putting pressure on him to board it up might work very much in their favour.

Councillor Hull said they should tell Webster’s agent Graham Barton the situation was getting worse and worse.

But even more important was the state of Martin’s around the corner. The drainpipe there could be “lethal” – things could drop off, he warned.

He said: “We should have discussions before we jump and make enemies but on the shop (Martin’s) we should act.”

Members agreed with deputy Mayor Jeremy Walden’s suggestion not to go in “heavy handed” but first to ask East Devon Council its views on using section 215 powers and then decide what action to pursue after their response.

A spokeswoman for Martin’s said: “It is not something we would want to comment on.”

She added that any official complaint from the council would be looked at by their health and safety department.