I want to see what Co-op burglar looks like

Public anger over Co-op burglary leads to call for electrified gates in Lace Walk.

Who’s to blame for Lace Walk problems?

For two years I have been urging the owners of Lace Walk to errect 10ft high gates to confirm that it is “private property”, not a public thoroughfare. It has become, after dark, the venue for mindless morons often smashing shop windows just to pass the time away.

Now vandalism has become CRIME.

What happened on Wednesday was to steal goods from the Co-op and the ‘Tom, Dick & Harry’ barber shop. Doors, not windows, were chosen to smash - so the thief, or thieves, knew exactly what they were doing.

Could he/they have been able to do this if the strong gates had been raised when first suggested? Of course, gates at the High street entrance, linking the front of the Co-op and the Factory Shop and the side of the Co-op and Iceland, would have cost thousands of pounds, but now I have been told the owners wanted them.

So who said “No” and why?

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When I went to the town council office within hours of the incidents, expecting to hear East Devon Council was the “No Gates” brigade, I was told some town councillors were against the gates.

The full story came when a spokeswoman for the Lace Walk owners told me via email: “In 2009 our client commissioned designs for gates to all three accesses to Lace Walk. Planning consent is required for the errection of such gates and pre-application talks began but it was revealed both the town council and the local chamber of commerce were vehemently opposed to Lace Walk being closed off.

“You will undoubtedly already be aware the site at the rear of Lace Walk and car park is reserved for a new Community Centre and one of their main concerns was that access to that new Centre should be provided via Lace Walk.

“In view of that opposition it was considered extremely unlikely that planning consent would be granted and at that the number of vandalism incidents had fallen considerably it was therefore decided that the CCTV system would be upgraded and linked to the town council’s system, though this has been delayed awaiting changes to the town council system.”

So next time you have to step carefully over broken glass as you want to shop in Lace Walk or head towards the High Street, remember who wants a right of way - just in case we eventually get a community centre.

Incidentally, which town councillors vetoed the 10ft gates. One I spoke to in the re-opened Co-op said he had never heard it talked about.

Talking with an elderly lady on Wednesday, who asked why she couldn’t get into the Co-op, I sought support about my 10ft gates idea. “But if one fell off from the top he might get hurt,” she said. I didn’t dare tell her I wanted an electric wire along the top so that hitting the floor would be the least of his worries.

I gather the police have already charged one man for stealing from the Co-op. My regret is he didn’t appear in Honiton Magistrates’ Court, not Exeter. I would have liked to see exactly what he looks like, so I will recognise him next time I see him in the High street, after all he will be on bail before being sentenced to perhaps four weeks in a prison cell with Sky tv.

A Smith

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