Wood Street, Swanley

In the semi-rural village of Swanley, situated within the Green Belt area of Sevenoaks, there were three bungalows at the end of a terrace of ten properties in Wood Street. Situated near a conservation area they remained empty for nearly ten years having fallen into a state of disrepair.

As with many long term empties, overgrown gardens, rats and fly-tipping, were having a severe effect on the local area and adjoining property. Numerous complaints about the eyesore properties from local residents resulted in a petition which attracted the attention of local Councillors, gaining local press coverage leaving Sevenoaks District Council to take firm action.

The owner refused to remedy the situation and in 2008 was convicted for setting mantraps at the properties and storing unlicensed ammunition in a garage on the site, leading him to serve a prison sentence. With continued arson and fire damage on the property, the Council made every attempt
to work with the owner while he served his sentence, providing advice and assistance. Eventually the owner agreed to renovate the properties upon his release and a programme of action was agreed as a way forward. However the agreement was not kept by the owner, leaving the Council with no other option but enforcement action.

The Council served a Section 79 Notice under the Building Act 1984. This required the owner to either repair or demolish the properties within two months or the Council would do the job for them and recover the costs from him. Fortunately, an interested party came forward and purchased the properties.

Working closely with the Council and No Use Empty with a desire to restore the three properties and bring them back into use. A No Use Empty loan of £25,000 has been conditionally approved on each of the three properties, together with a Council grant of £10,000 on the first property to be renovated.

Having obtained planning permission for the works, the project is now complete and the properties are available to rent.

After a lot of hard work, the project is complete and providing much needed accommodation. The owner of the property, said: “The No Use Empty Initiative has been invaluable to us as without it we would not have been able to progress the project as quickly as we did.”

What a great good news story!