City Council rules out forcing jailed owner to restore the Dance Academy
THE FUTURE of an iconic Union Street landmark remains in limbo after council chiefs today ruled out trying to force its controversial owner to restore it.
Last week The Herald revealed that Manoucehr Bahmanzadeh, jailed in 2008 for nine years for allowing the sale of Class A drugs, has not sold the Grade II* listed Dance Academy building to pay his Proceeds of Crime Act bill.
However, a legal wrangle between the Crown Prosecution Service and the State of Jersey's Attorney General's Office has seen Bahmanzadeh's Jersey accounts frozen and the £1million crime bill left unpaid.
Oliver Colvile, Tory MP for Sutton and Devonport, met representatives of English Heritage (EH), earlier this year to discuss the building, which is on EH's 'Heritage at Risk' register, the at-risk register of the Theatres Trust, and was named as one of the 10 most endangered Victorian or Edwardian buildings in England and Wales by the Victorian Society.
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It is understood EH would offer to underwrite 80 per cent of the cost of repair if Plymouth City Council served a repair notice or urgent works notice to make the building watertight.
But the council has scotched the idea saying it must "prioritise the way it spends council tax payers' money".
The spokesman said: "Spending vital funds on a building we do not own and have no specific use for is not the answer."
The spokesman said that "under normal circumstances" the building would be an obvious candidate for Section 215 Untidy Land Action.
However, this had to be balanced by "the practical and financial implications of taking legal action against the owner who is serving a long-term jail sentence."
The spokesman said: "The likelihood of him [Bahmanzadeh] complying with this sort of legal action, with a maximum penalty on conviction of £1,000 for non-compliance, is small and without his co-operation the council would inevitably be forced into a position of carrying out potentially very expensive repairs entirely at the taxpayers' expense.
"Because of the extent of deterioration of the building, an Urgent Works Notice would also be extremely costly for a building like the Palace Theatre and while English Heritage may be willing to fund 80 per cent of the cost, that leaves at least 20 per cent of the costs to be found from somewhere."
The single ray of light was for "anyone seeking advice on securing a viable and sustainable future for the building".
If some benefactor came forward who was able to buy the building off Bahmanzadeh then the council said it would "use the positive provisions of the Millbay Area Action Plan to support a deliverable restoration project."
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