Concern over lack of progress on scheme to renovate crumbling Assizes Courts in Devizes

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Ted East, chairman of the Trust for Devizes, outside the former Assize Courts Ted East, chairman of the Trust for Devizes, outside the former Assize Courts

Concerns have been raised for the Assize Courts in Devizes because building work has still not begun almost a year after it gained planning approval.

Work to convert the building in Northgate Street to flats was given the go-ahead last May.

Efforts to contact the owners of the Grade II* listed building or their agents have proved fruitless and some residents fear this is yet another false dawn in the fraught 25-year history of the building’s redevelopment.

Ted East, chairman of the Trust for Devizes, has phoned and emailed Martin Henneberry of Urban Spectrum, the agents for building owners Gatewell Limited, on numerous occasions without success, as has the Gazette & Herald.

When a reporter rang on Tuesday morning, he was told that Mr Henneberry was involved in a meeting that would last all day.

Mr Henneberry spoke to support the plan at the time of a public consultation on the project in October 2011.

Then he told the Gazette: “We accept it (the building) can’t stay as it is.We have spent thousands and thousands of pounds on
getting to this stage. It would be lovely to see this scheme
happen.”

The planning application was for the creation of 18 apartments, while the central lobby would be used as a community space.

But there has been silence since then and Mr East is among those concerned about the situation.

He said: “He (Mr Henneberry) had assured me last year that the owner intends to complete the restoration himself and not just sell it as a site with planning permission, which is what many of the land speculators do in order to take a quick profit. We had no reason not to believe him, but circumstances can change of course.

“Meanwhile, the great concern is that time is not on anyone’s side and action is needed sooner rather than later. The building continues to deteriorate and the cost of restoration work will rise. Unfortunately we are in the hands of the owner (Dubai-based businessman Suleiman Dockrat) who is not in this country and not directly contactable.”

Coun Sue Evans who, when mayor, was photographed in
celebratory mood outside the building when planning approval was granted, said she had heard nothing about the scheme since then.

She said: “It was amazing. Everyone was getting so excited that finally something was being done with this lovely building and then the shutters came down.”

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