Housebuilding chiefs at Persimmon have been blasted as “morally repugnant” for failing to maintain a landmark building in the heart of Carlisle after it emerged the taxpayer may now foot the bill.

The comments from leading councillors came as it was revealed Historic England has designated Botchergate as a conservation area ‘at risk” due to the number of empty, boarded-up and deteriorating buildings.

And chief among these eyesores is the Persimmon-owned ‘Dias Building’ at the gateway to the historic city which has stood empty for more than 30 years and is now “significantly dilapidated”.

But now the city council is seeking support for a project bid and has made an expression of interest to the High Street Heritage Action Zone as part of a move to revive its fortunes.

Through this, they are seeking a cash boost from the Future High Street Fund, a £675 million pot of Government cash intended to transform high streets and town centres nationwide.

But leading councillors blasted Persimmon for failing to maintain 149-159 Botchergate adequately amid claims the company is only now showing an interest in re-development because a pot of public money may be available to carry out overdue works.

Councillors also questioned why the public purse should be used to pay for works which they said should be the responsibility of Persimmon, a company which last year reported a net income of £886.4 million.

Speaking at today’s (July 9) meeting of the County Council’s Local Committee for Carlisle, coun Alan McGuckin described Persimmons’ record in the city record as “wretched”.

He said: “Every city and county councillor for the Castle division has looked at it (the ‘Dias’ Building), tried, pursued and got nowhere. And, lo and behold, if you give them some money, they want to engage with us.

“Well, I would say ‘engage with your responsibility’, never mind needing your mouth to be stuffed with gold.

“I congratulate the city for trying to deal with an obvious eyesore, but it shouldn’t need public money given to them to deal with this.”

Backing up Mr McGuckin’s comments, council leader Stewart Young said: “It’s not surprising that the first time they were willing to engage was because there might be some public money on the table.

“This is a private company who make huge profits from housing developments in this city and elsewhere – and they have left that building. And it is an absolute disgrace.”

The city council is seeking support from the county council’s local committee for Carlisle to help them develop scheme if the expression of interest goes through to the development phase.

A spokesman for Persimmon Homes Lancashire, said: “We are working alongside Carlisle City Council in order to seek a solution and bring the building back into use, and recently met with its regeneration team who are considering the regeneration of the wider area. We are not in a position to comment further at this time.”

Councillors were responding to a briefing from Paul Musgrave, area manager for the communities team in Carlisle, which set out the scale of the problem in Botchergate.

He also revealed that discussions had also been “positive” over planned improvements to Christchurch Gardens and to five shop fronts in Botchergate.