‘Vagrant’ fear over prime Sidmouth property

Officers want building made ‘less inviting’

POLICE want a prime piece of Sidmouth seafront property to be made ‘less inviting’ after ‘vagrants’ were spotted nearby.

Officers are concerned the derelict Drill Hall on The Esplanade- which is key to the future redevelopment of the town’s eastern end- could become a target for transients. Sergeant Andy Turner said he was aware ‘vagrants’ had been gathering at The Ham end of the seafront.

“Police have attended and requested East Devon District Council (EDDC) carries out measures to make the old Army Cadets hut less inviting,” he added.

EDDC said it doesn’t yet own the hall, and it was still the responsibility of the Western Wessex Reserve Forces and Cadet Association, an umbrella organisation of the Ministry of Defence.

That organisation vowed yesterday it would look into the matter and boost security if necessary.

Town councillor Simon Pollentine, an East Ward representative, regularly visits the area.

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He said the Drill Hall looked secure, but that he’d been told people had been seen getting in ‘under’ part of the premises, and that he looked forward to learning more from police.

Cllr Peter Sullivan, a town and district councillor, said: “That’s a prime piece of the seafront. I find the possibility vagrants could be gathering there quite disturbing.

“That site is very important for the future development of the town.”

The Herald reported in November last year how a crucial agreement was reached that will see EDDC take over the Drill Hall after work is completed on a new base for the town’s Army Cadets and Air Training Corps in Chambers Close, off Stowford Rise.

An EDDC spokesperson said: “The Drill Hall is not yet in the ownership of the council. It will not be transferred to us until the new Drill Hall is handed over later this summer.

“Any issues about access or security should be referred to the current owners.

“The future of the Drill Hall site will be considered as part of any future development scheme that may come forward for the area, but at the moment it is too early to speculate about what might happen.”

A spokesperson for the Western Wessex Reserve Forces and Cadet Association said yesterday: “We need to go and have a look at it. If there is a security problem then we need to put that right.”