THE borough council could force the owner of the Locarno to hand over the derelict landmark in a compulsory purchase.

Until Tuesday owner Gael Mackenzie and developer Steve Rosier had been hoping to convert the Victorian listed building, once known as the Corn Exchange, into shops, restaurants and flats.

But the council, which owns the car park in front of the building needed for the development has now withdrawn from the agreement it had with the businessmen, because several deadlines it set for a full planning application have been missed.

The building, which looks over Old Town, is boarded up, and has no roof and it has been open to the elements for years.

Now, the council’s cabinet member for the town centre, Dale Heenan says Mr Mackenzie needs to bring forward a new plan.

He said: “All of the focus is now on the owner of the Corn Exchange, Gael Mackenzie, to take action.

"Mr Mackenzie is an astute businessman, and at the moment, he has the Conservatives’ full political support, and local community goodwill, to move quickly on this important heritage building in Old Town.

“I hope he appoints a new developer who has a track record in delivery. There are several local reputable companies who can help, and there is a lot of interest in this historic building so I wouldn’t be surprised if people are already getting in touch.

“Should Mr Mackenzie not wish to put this small effort in now then I urge him to put it up for sale so someone else can restore it.”

Coun Heenan thinks the political will at the council is to see something constructive done with the building, and added: “I am certain if proven viable plans came forward then the council planning committee would welcome, and approve them.

"A positive decision was made seven years ago with approval of a design brief for the Corn Exchange but nothing has happened since.

"Old Town councillor Nick Burns Howell, and local campaigner Karen Davison-Renouf, are lobbying me to keep all options on the table, including enforcement action and a last resort of compulsory purchase order. The next step is up to the owner.”

Mr Mackenzie, who owns Mackenzie’s cafe bar in Wood Street a few hundred yards from the Corn Exchange has been approached for his comment, as has Mr Rosier.

A meeting has already been arranged by campaigner Sally Hawson to discuss the future of the building at the Moose Hall in Eastcott Street at 7pm on February 7.