Wellingborough councillors have agreed to take action to sort out a dilapidated building in the town centre.
The privately-owned building, at 31-32 Church Street, has been in need of repair for years and is pinned in place with scaffolding to stop it falling into the street.
Members of the council’s services committee recommended tonight that negotiations should start with the building’s owner to transfer the property to the council.
If it seems unlikely an agreement could be reached within four weeks, the council will start the process to use its compulsory purchase powers to buy the building, or force a sale at auction.
It would then be demolished and the site levelled until a future use can be found.
The building was previously used as an Indian restaurant.
Problems first started more than a decade ago when the owner put in display windows and took out the bulk of the front wall.
The building then deteriorated and in 2006 the council’s building control team inspected it and recorded it as a dangerous structure which posed an immediate threat to public safety.
The council then had a statutory duty to make the building safe, and quickly carried out remedial works. External scaffolding was later put up to secure the property.
In 2010 the scaffolding was hit by a bus.
A design was prepared to move the scaffolding inside to hold back the front wall, rather than having external scaffolding pushing against it.
The works were completed in 2011 and since then the council’s building control team have regularly inspected the property.
A structural engineer has confirmed that the internal scaffolding system is sufficient to keep the building stable and prevent it falling into the road.
However, the building remains an eyesore and the council has had repeated calls for something to be done.
Since the problems first occurred, council officers have been in regular contact with the owner to ask him to resolve the situation, but without success. In November last year a charge of nearly £44,000 was placed on the property on the land registry title, as the total recoverable costs incurred by the council to stabilise and inspect the building.
Chairman of the council’s services committee, Cllr Peter Morrall, said: “This building has been a problem for years now.
“It’s privately owned, so although we are legally allowed to make it safe, we haven’t been able to take further action.
“It’s now reached the point where it looks unlikely that the owner will resolve the problems and we believe the building will only deteriorate more. We can’t risk public safety so we’ve now recommended we take steps to bring the property under our ownership.
“This could be by negotiating a transfer in exchange for the charge being written off, or if that fails, we can use our compulsory purchase powers.
“We will continue to negotiate with the owner to try and resolve the situation, but tonight’s decision shows that we’re prepared to begin the action needed to bring an end to this problem for good.”
If a compulsory purchase is necessary, it is estimated it will cost around £180,000 in total, which would be paid for out of a capital budget set aside for that use. Negotiations would include the recovery of the £43,924.52 charge on the property.
If the building is demolished, work would have to be carried out on the neighbouring property, as the party wall would become an external gable wall.
The recommendation of the services committee will now go a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, February 24.