Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us Click here for details »
Southend Council leader: "We'll take over empty homes"
EMPTY homes could soon be seized by Southend Council after just six months to ease the authority’s housing waiting list.
Council leader Nigel Holdcroft is keen to push through the change in policy, which he believes will solve the problem of 2,600 empty properties across the borough and clear the 1,200- strong waiting list.
Currently, the council can only use compulsory purchase order powers after ten years, but Mr Holdcroft wants this changed.
Residents in Roedean Gardens, Southchurch, have been lobbying hard about a bungalow which has been derelict for two years.
Mr Holdcroft has managed to get the council to agree to seize that particular property and now a permanent change of policy will be discussed at the council’s next cabinet meeting.
He said: “I think this case particularly highlights the problem.
“It does seem rather ridiculous that council policy means we have to wait ten years to introduce a compulsory purchase order. It is just unnecessary that we have placed this restriction on ourselves which wasn’t set by Government.
“It is particularly important in a built-up, urban area like Southend, where there’saconstant need for housing. It’s very frustrating for there to be so many empty properties, we want to doing everything we can to bring them back into use.”
Bob Day, 75, who lives in Ashurst Avenue, not far from the empty bungalow on Roedean Gardens, is delighted.
He said: “It’s brilliant they’re finally going to do something about that bungalow. It’s about time.
“It’sagreat idea to introduce this policy as well, there are so many derelict properties around.”
Tania Mildren, 32, who lives in Cluny Square with her husband and young son, has been on the housing waiting list for two years. They have no idea when they can move into a new home.
She said: “If it works, it would be a good idea, but they seem to have made a few promises before and they don’t all seem to happen.”
Another neighbour, 79, said: “I think the consensus is that it’s a good thing. It does seem like something good has come out of it, but six months to take over a property does seem a little short.”
Martin Terry, leader of the Independent group on the council, also liked the idea.
He said: “I’m very supportive of the new compulsory purchase order policy.
“There are a number of properties around the town which can be used by people who sorely need housing and are currently vacant.”
The process of taking over a property takes about 12 months from the time a compulsory purchase order is issued.
COMPULSORY purchase orders can be issued even when the owner of a property can’t be found.
Councils can use the powers to take over homes and keep the money in trust which any owner can recover later.
This gives them an advantage over empty dwelling management orders, which can be served if properties are left empty for two years, but only if the owner can be found to serve it on.
Southend Council has taken over about 20 homes through this method in the past five years.
The borough has the second highest proportion of empty homes in Essex, with only Tendring, in north Essex, having more.
Comments are closed on this article.