YOUNGSTERS are dicing with death by accessing the site of a derelict historic building in Dawlish, residents have claimed.
The neglected former vicarage site in Weech Road has been the subject of an ongoing saga about its future for decades.
But neighbours and residents say they have seen children, some aged as young as 12, climbing over fencing.
The Vicarage Residents Group has been campaigning for some years to tackle the issue of the Grade II listed Old Vicarage.
While there have been protracted issues with ownership and planning applications, residents are currently concerned with the numbers of youngsters accessing the grounds and the decaying property.
They now fear, given the state of the building, there could be a fatality.
A spokesman for the residents explained: ‘One main issue raised, is the fact for a long time residents have witnessed children accessing the dangerous site, even after the erection of the hoarding.
‘The children are aged around 12 and they roam the grounds and have gone closely up to the unstable building with loose hanging fabrics.
‘To the children it’s most likely exciting and an adventure and not always recognising the dangers associated.’
Empty for almost 25 years, the property is collapsing and the site has been fenced off with ‘Danger Keep Out’ signage erected.
One wing has already fallen down and it continues to fall into decline.
Believed in part to date back to the late 17th century, the property was bought by Great Western Railway in 1939 and converted into flats.
In 1970 it was sold to the first of a series of developers and the last two occupants left their flats in 2000.
Earlier this year, Dawlish town councillors called for a solution to be found to the ‘complicated’ situation which is leaving the building to fall further into disrepair.
Residents say they have contacted the authorities with their safety concerns, along with photographic evidence showing youngsters scaling the fencing, and been told that the police have been notified.
They say safety at the site should be a ‘priority’ and that the police being notified did not eliminate the ‘high risk’ of young people accessing the area.
With ongoing wrangling over the future of the site with part of it under control of the Crown Estate, the building continues to fall further into disrepair.
But residents have been told by Teignbridge Council that a new conservation officer is working on the situation and trying to find a buildings preservation trust which may look at taking it on.
The spokesman for the group said: ‘We do hope that after half a century we will finally see a small and low key, yet sympathetic development that’s long overdue and for the respect to be finally shown to this failed listed building that has unfortunately just been left to rot, even though planning applications were submitted but never got approval.
‘We wish to try and move things on positively to get matters resolved swiftly once and for all.’