Government cash to help Freebridge and West Norfolk Council tackle borough’s housing problem

PUBLISHED: 06:35 13 November 2012

EMPTY: A poster put on Purfleet House during the King's Lynn Civic Societys demonstration last year Picture: Matthew Usher.

EMPTY: A poster put on Purfleet House during the King's Lynn Civic Societys demonstration last year Picture: Matthew Usher.

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Freebridge Community Housing has secured a slice of government money to help bring 20 empty properties in the borough back into use.

The housing association worked with West Norfolk Council to successfully bid to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) for £250,000 to bring empty homes back into use in the borough through the creation of a private sector leasing scheme.

The government made the funds available to the HCA to tackle long-term empty properties across the country which would not come back into use without additional cash.

Colin Davison, assistant director of property services, said: “From the homes and communities agency funding, there is around £250,000 available for West Norfolk over the next three years to bring empty homes back into use.

“We would urge any landlords with empty properties to get in touch with us to discuss options.”

There are almost 6,000 people on the housing needs register and there are more than 2,600 empty properties within King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, around 1,000 are long-term empty.

Under the private sector leasing scheme, Freebridge will lease properties from landlords and rent them to people nominated by the council through housing scheme Homechoice.

But it will only to be available to two or three bedroom properties that have been empty for two years or more and will be limited to those in the Lynn and Hunstanton areas.

“There are a number of problems associated with an empty property in a neighbourhood and more generally for the council as a whole,” said a report presented to the council’s regeneration, environment and community panel said earlier this year.

“An empty property can have an impact on adjacent properties, they can lead to a loss of amenity and occasionally increase crime and generally reduce confidence in an area.

“They are, of course, a wasted resource, a loss of revenue for the council through council tax and a loss of spending power in the local neighbourhood.”

The announcement by Freebridge comes as landlords of King’s Lynn’s long-term empty buildings are being urged to attend a special forum this evening which is aimed at helping them bring their properties back into use for housing.

The free event in Lynn’s Town Hall, which runs from 7pm to 9pm, will allow property owners to meet representatives from housing associations, builders, agents and council officers to discuss the options available to them.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s forum, Adrian Lawrence, West Norfolk Council cabinet member for community, said: “Empty properties could become much-needed homes or be reinvented to breathe new life into our communities. This forum is a way of bringing together all the parties who can make this happen.”

Hannah Martin, a housing officer at the borough council, added: “We understand that there are a number of factors that people need to consider when thinking about bringing their empty properties back into use and it can be a daunting prospect.

“[But] by bringing everyone together in one place we hope to encourage owners to see the benefits both to them and the wider community of bringing long-term empty buildings back into use.”

The funding announcement and forum follows a demonstration by the King’s Lynn Civic Society last year which highlighted the amount of long-term empty buildings there are in the town.

Members put up large red posters on empty properties, including Purfleet House and the former Post Office, which explained how many people they could house.

The society has calculated that 427 people could be housed from the 10 long-term vacant properties and potential housing sites it targeted.

Some of the other sites identified by the society last year included 3 Priory Lane, 51 London Road, 11 Valingers Road, and 9-11 St James Street, which combined could house 17 people.

The Sommerfeld and Thomas warehouse, in South Quay, and The Stables, north of 1 Blackfriars Road, could house 110 people.

The former Corona site, situated on the corner of The Friars and All Saints Street, and possible flats above High Street shops could be used to house 210 people.

For more information about the advice and assistance available for empty property owners visit www.west-norfolk.gov.uk.

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