A community organisation dedicated to restoring historic buildings has criticised Devon and Cornwall Police for the "horrendous" condition in which it claims the force left an architectural landmark that has been home to serving officers for 100 years.
The Devon Historic Buildings Trust (DHBT) has lambasted the force for its "harsh treatment" of Tavistock's Guildhall and police station, which are Grade II* listed and which are central features of the town, popular with sightseeing tourists and locals.
The Trust bought the properties in the West Devon town, on the edge of Dartmoor, in July 2010, and police continued to lease the building until they eventually moved out in February.
Police say they did commission contract work to leave the roof watertight, even after the sale. But DHBT is now faced with funding extensive work, which it hopes will turn the property into a community facility alongside high-class apartments.
In a statement, the Trust said: "When the police marched out in February the roof was admitting water, there was rising damp due to inadequate drainage and the decorative condition in the warren of tiny rooms was truly horrendous.
"Many more years of this could result in permanent damage leading to unaffordable repairs. In the middle of the recession, while the police have moved to new, centrally heated and modern properties on the edge of Tavistock, DHBT, assisted by the community, must do its best to renew, preserve and refurbish the beautiful old abbey buildings that still define the centre of Tavistock."
The premises lie within the Abbey Scheduled Ancient Monument, the World Heritage Site, and the Tavistock Conservation Area, and are among the most highly designated assets in Devon, with international significance.
The Trust has appointed architects Gillespie Yunnie to advise on the restoration work. It hopes to preserve the court with its cells, bench and dock, while creating three residential units for sale. The homes will raise funds to pay for the wider restoration.
The Trust says it is open to suggestions on future use of the site, with ideas including a meeting room or a tourist attraction. To have a say, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01822 615221.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said DHTB carried out surveys before it bought the building, and was responsible for maintaining the fabric of the property from summer 2010.
"There had been some ongoing problems with the roof.
"Despite the roof being the responsibility of the owners, the Force did instruct a contractor to carry out a temporary repair and, as such, the building was watertight when it was vacated."