Redevelopment of the derelict Assize Courts building in Devizes has not been brought any closer by the demolition of the former car repair business behind it, it has been revealed.

Hopes were high that the buildings of the former Ralph Merrett Motor Engineers in Lower Wharf being torn down was a sign that the conversion of the Grade II* listed courts building would soon take place.

The building, which dates from 1835, has been derelict since Wiltshire County Council sold it off in the 1980s but the current owners, Gatewell, have had planning permission to convert it to flats for some years.

Hopes were dashed after the Trust for Devizes approached Wiltshire councillor Sue Evans for clarification of what was going on.

Mrs Evans replied: “The land in question was inherited by Mr Merrett’s family, who are not local.

“However, for many years after it ceased to be used as a garage, the family did not do anything with it.

“There were sale boards up and it was theoretically on the market but any approaches have been met with a negative response. Then in 2012 the building partially collapsed and we were involved in making sure it was made safe.

“The building was finally demolished fairly recently.

“Wiltshire Council is keen to ensure that any scheme which comes forward for the site does not prejudice the development of the Assize Courts.

“Wiltshire Council has also advised the owners’ agent that they may wish to consider liaising with the owners of the Assize Courts.

“If the family do not want to sell and choose instead to pursue an application themselves, Wiltshire Council have no remit under which to insist that the site is developed in conjunction with the Assize Courts.”

Ted East, chairman of the Trust for Devizes, said: “While this is a helpful reply, it does not take us any further forward as far as the development of the Assize Courts is concerned.

“The Trust will continue to do whatever it can to press Wiltshire Council to take a more positive approach to rescuing this historic building.”