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Opinion: The Council Is Right To Makes Homes From Empty Houses

Published on: 10 Jul, 2013
Updated on: 10 Jul, 2013

by Martin Giles

empty houseThe news that the council has utilised new powers to bring into use empty housing should be widely welcomed and supported.

The inexorable demand for more houses is an almost impossible challenge for local authorities in the south-east of England.

Migration into the region from other parts of the UK, as well as other parts of the EU, and the world, means that, as worrying as it might be, there is no end in sight to the growth of our population.

Leaving any dwelling empty in the face of the homes shortage is plain wrong and the council are completely right to act. Hopefully, this is just a start and they will identify other properties that are being allowed to lie wastefully empty, often deteriorating in unsightly fashion, while queues on housing lists lengthen and first time buyers find it almost impossible to take the first step up the housing ladder.

Opinion Logo 2But it is not just empty properties that the council should be concerned with. Councils need powers to ensure that empty brown field sites are brought into constructive use too. At a time when we are contemplating building on the green belt there can be no excuse for leaving brown field sites undeveloped.

And they should be developed in a way that suits the whole town, not just the owners. ‘Change of use’ must become easier to allow council’s a far more flexible control over the way land assets are used to best effect.

The council is often criticised but too often it is left to bear the brunt of constraining laws and regulations that it has had no hand in making. The government made much of the introduction of the Localism Act but it will count for very little if local councils cannot decided what is built and where.

When all is said and done councillors are democratically elected and if we don’t like what they do we can vote for someone else at the next election. That is more than can be said for the men and women from Bristol, the planning inspectors who descend on the town, perhaps on a sole visit, and reverse even unanimous decisions taken locally by local councillors who know far more about what is best for our borough.

Politicians at all levels should send a clear message to the government ‘no adjudication without representation’. We should demand a return of full planning authority to local councils.

See also: First Use of Council Powers to Make An Empty House A Home

Note: The council used an Empty Dwelling Management Order to take control of the property in Ash Grove. More information can be found in the government leaflet linked below. Click one the image to link.

Click on image to view.

Click on image to view.

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