A new call for CCTV cameras covering Totnes Guildhall has gone out amid concerns over homeless people and fireraisers are putting the centuries old building at risk.
The town council, which owns the buidling, is fed up with homeless people bedding down under the Guildhall portico and using the surrounding courtyard as an open toilet.
And they are also concerned about the young people who also congregate outside the Guildhall’s ancient oak door lighting fires and smoking cigarette they routinely push under the door into the vulnerable old building.
Now councillors want to look at installing a CCTV camera in the roof of the portico to keep an eye on people using the area. They even want a sophisticated system they can access remotely through their own laptops so they can see what is going on any time of the day or night.
Council operations committee chairman Marion Adams said: “It is our building and it is a Grade-I listed building and for the security and safety of the building we need to do it.”
She warned that on a number of occasions burned paper had been found outside the Guildhall’s wooden door, while council staff have seen with human excrement outside the building.
And she added: “I would like to see a camera put up outside the Guildhall so we can see what is going on there.”
The committee voted to recommend that the council presses ahead with sorting out the cost of buying CCTV equipment, even though town clerk Catherine Marlton told them the police had asked them to “hold fire’ while they see if their policy of moving vagrants on had any impact.
The problem of vagrants and other people congregating beneath the Guildhall portico has been aconcern for years.
The two benches that used to be positioned under the portico were removed years ago as rough sleppers began using them to bed down on at night.
At one point the council fenced off the area to keep people out.
The council began talking about installing CCTV two years ago and worked out then it would cost at least £1,000. Although the councillors voted to buy the equipment when the budget allowed, it has never happened.
Ms Marlton told councillors t there were two set of problem groups using the portico – the young people who arrive after school who it is feared have been responsible for lighting fires and the rough sleepers who come to bed down.
Cllr Marion Adams said that earlier this year there was a potentially major fire just yards away in the churchyard when somebody set fire to a rubbish bin against the church wall. She said: “God forbid if something like that happened at the Guildhall.”
Ms Marlton said police had suggested the council consider installing equipment that emits a high frequency sound that is uncomfortable for anyone to be near. The equipment is predominant aimed at young people whose hearing of high frequency sound is more acute than older people.
But councillors rejected that idea, with Cllr Margie Barker warned them it was “treating children like animals”.