Norfolk council gets tough on the owners of empty homes

PUBLISHED: 14:46 26 November 2012

Councillors and officers in South Norfolk have pledged to step up their efforts to reduce the number of empty homes in the district.

South Norfolk Council began a project in 2010 to take a more pro-active approach with the owners of uninhabited properties. However, there are still 1,503 empty homes in the district with 438 being vacant for more than six months.

Members of the authority’s cabinet yesterday heard that from April 2011 to July 2012, officers had contacted the owners of 217 homes and 50pc had been brought back into use.

Councillors from all parties backed further plans to increase efforts to bring long-term empty properties into use and authorise the option of using compulsory purchase orders in extreme cases.

Councils receive money from the New Homes Bonus for every property that it is brought out of redundancy.

Andy Jarvis, director responsible for development and environment, said officers would be attempting to contact the owners of 40 empty properties a month.

John Fuller, South Norfolk Council leader, said the use of a compulsory purchase order was a “last resort” option. He added that council leaders were looking to change the rules on council tax rates for long-term empty properties to bring them back into use.

“It is worth our while and we have made fantastic progress. We are walking quietly with a big stick,” he said.

Murray Gray, leader of the South Norfolk Liberal Democrat opposition group, said he supported the council’s approach and it was a “disgrace” that some homes were empty for so long when there was a shortage of homes for people.

In 2008, there were 1,523 empty homes in South Norfolk with 657 empty for six months. The council currently has the lowest number of long-term empty homes in five years.

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