The property market may be booming, with houses in short supply, but nearly 300,000 homes in the UK are estimated to be empty. Under new laws introduced last year, local councils in England and Wales now have the right to seize control of residential properties that have been uninhabited for more than six months. But six months on, what has actually been done? Channel 4 News investigates action being taken in East Kent.
Latest news from No Use Empty property initiative
No Use Empty; the East Kent Empty Property Initiative has hosted the second in a series of training workshops for empty property officers from across the region. The aim of the training is to help them increase their knowledge and understanding of legislation which can help bring empty properties back into use.
The session focused on Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) which are an important weapon in the armoury of empty property officers. CPOs are employed as a last resort, when all other less stringent methods to bring an empty property back into use have failed. Once served to the owner the council has the right to take ownership of the property.
Empty property officers from nine Kent authorities attended the workshop as well as representatives from various other departments including legal, planning and environmental health. The training was led by Chris Skinner, Head of Great Yarmouth Legal and Member Services.
No Use Empty is a joint initiative between Kent County Council and the four district councils of East Kent; Dover, Shepway, Swale and Thanet. There are around 9,000 empty properties across East Kent which represents a valuable wasted housing resource. The aim of the campaign is to encourage owners of the empty properties to bring them back into use.
Susan Pledger, Project Manager of No Use Empty said; We recognise that, in some cases, drastic action must be taken if we are to counter the negative impact empty properties have on communities in East Kent, such as attracting crime and vandalism. Although CPOs are only ever used as a last resort, if all other courses of action have failed and the owner is not constructively engaging with the relevant local authority, they can become our only option.
Free help and advice is available to property owners who are advised to browse this site or call the No Use Empty hotline 08458 247605.
Empty property officers from across Kent have come together to attend a special seminar aimed at helping them increase their knowledge and understanding of the latest legislation which can help bring empty properties back into use.
The workshop was hosted by No Use Empty: the East Kent Empty Property Initiative, a campaign which aims to reduce the number of empty properties in East Kent. Kent County Council teamed up with the four District Councils of Dover, Shepway, Swale and Thanet to launch the campaign in November last year in response to the recurring problem of empty properties in the region and the detrimental impact they have on local communities. The campaign is encouraging owners of empty properties to bring them back into use and create much-needed homes for people.
Over 37 Empty Property Officers from 13 District Councils across Kent attended the one-day seminar at the University of Greenwich, Kings Hill Institute, West Malling. The seminar incorporated presentations from a series of keynote speakers from across the country, who were able to deliver a national perspective on key issues facing the sector.
Guest speakers at the seminar included David Ireland from the Empty Homes Agency and Rob Miles from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
Nigel Ward from Newham Council delivered a presentation on Compulsory Purchase Orders (a legal power to permit councils to acquire housing when owners will not voluntarily bring their property back into use), while Gary Wilson & Dave Stott from Manchester City Council discussed the Enforced Sales Procedure ( a procedure used by authorities to recover their debts on empty properties). A further presentation from Sid Brown Shepway District Council covered the use of Section 215 Town & Country Planning Act 1990.
Susan Pledger, the No Use Empty campaign manager, said: “The purpose of the day was to provide an opportunity for empty property officers across Kent to increase their knowledge and understanding of key legislation. This will help them in their on-going work to return more empty properties back into use.
“We are delighted to have attracted such a knowledgeable and high profile range of guest speakers to the seminar. The event also provided empty property officers from across Kent the opportunity to meet, share experiences and best practice, and learn from each other. It was a great success and we are already considering turning this seminar into an annual event.”
Campaign targets financial support for empty home owners
No Use Empty, the initiative aimed at bringing empty properties in East Kent back into use, has appointed a Project Manager.
Susan Pledger will lead the new initiative which was launched in November last year by Kent County Council, in partnership with the four District Councils of Dover, Shepway, Swale and Thanet.
No Use Empty: the Kent Empty Property Initiative is a proactive campaign in response to the recurring problem of empty housing in East Kent, where there are currently around 3000 empty properties going to waste. It is hoped to roll out the campaign across all districts enabling it to tackle the issue of empty properties throughout Kent
Susan brings with her a wealth of experience in housing and area regeneration and renewal. She has over 20 years experience in local government, and has spent the last six years at Dover District Council. Susan will be responsible for working closely with the four District Council empty property officers to co-ordinate the campaign and deliver its objectives to help bring empty houses back into use. Although based at Kent County Council’s headquarters in Maidstone, Susan will be spending much of her time working across the four Districts.
Susan is delighted with her new role, she said: “The No Use Empty campaign is such an exciting, unique initiative which can make a real difference to bringing empty properties back into use across East Kent. Empty houses are a waste of a valuable housing resource, and deprive people of a much needed home.
“The key to the campaign is partnership. We have a great team on board, and we’re all looking forward to tackling the issue head-on and building on the excellent work of the empty homes officers across the four Districts”.
The campaign team is currently focusing on exploring the different options available to offer owners of empty houses financial support to help them bring their property back into use. Recent research shows that while the majority of empty properties in East Kent are in good condition, there are many which require repair work and renovation to bring them into a habitable condition.
The team is embarking on a consultation programme with property owners and developers to help gain a better understanding of the financial support required to turn these properties into homes.
The campaign is committed to working closely with owners and developers to reach a workable solution to help achieve the goal of bringing vacant properties back into use.
For more information on the No Use Empty initiative browse this site
Empty housing is having a detrimental impact on local communities, according to residents and businesses in an independent survey.
The survey, carried out by BMG Research and commissioned by Kent County Council in partnership with East Kent District Councils, aimed to ascertain the perceptions of local residents and businesses on the impact of empty properties on their local community, and the overall effect on the neighbourhood.
Kent County Council, in partnership with the four District Councils of Dover, Shepway, Swale and Thanet, recently launched No Use Empty – a campaign aimed at tackling the problem of empty housing in the East Kent region. The findings from this survey highlight the acute anti-social impact of long term empty properties.
The key findings of the survey include:
- 62% of residents perceive empty property to have a negative impact on the local community, with most expressing concern over them making the area look run down or dirty. Other concerns note the effect on crime, an increase in vandalism and the attraction of squatters.
- 65% of residents recognise the positive effects of bringing empty property back into use. Around half of the respondents said the area looks better, or it had improved the area, with others expressing that it was a nicer place to live, it has given people a home, and even increased house prices.
- 50% of local businesses perceived empty property near their premises to have a negative impact on their trade. Concerns raised include fewer customers, the area looking run down and dirty, and the area generally developing a bad reputation.
Councillor Graham Gibbens, Cabinet member for Regeneration and Supporting Independence at Kent County Council, says: “The results of this survey strengthens our conviction that empty properties are bad news for communities across Kent, and the Council is committed to tackling this issue head on.
“We have already demonstrated this commitment by launching the No Use Empty campaign last November, with our partners in Dover, Shepway, Swale and Thanet.
The No Use Empty campaign was launched last November, and is already receiving phenomenal interest, with the website – www.no-use-empty.org – receiving almost 10,000 hits in five weeks, and the hot line (08458 247605) receiving a deluge of early inquiries.