North Norfolk District Council Tories get tough over empty homes

Long-term empty homes in north Norfolk are set to be compulsorily purchased and re-sold as the district council's new Conservative administration rolls up its sleeves to tackle the area's chronic housing shortage.

The measure coincides with movement on a handful of key development sites in the district expected to result in formal planning applications over the next few weeks.

The Tories say they are determined to bring back into use as many as possible of the district's estimated 1,400-plus empty properties, and send a message to owners that the council will not tolerate years of inaction by owners which can blight communities desperate for more homes.

Monday's North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) cabinet meeting will consider a recommendation to use �200,000 from the council's Housing Renewal Grant for a pilot project which would see steps taken to compulsorily purchase three long-term empty properties - after giving the owner one last chance - which have been the subject of complaints from neighbours. Their location has not been made public.

Councillor Keith Johnson, whose portfolio includes housing, said that if successful, the aim was for the scheme to become self-financing, with sales funds reinvested into the project.

North Norfolk would also benefit from the government's New Homes Bonus scheme, which allows councils to keep the first six years' council tax on any new homes, or properties brought back into use.

'We really think this is a positive way forward,' said Mr Johnson. 'There is such a desperate need for homes in north Norfolk. The average age of a first-time buyer is now 37 and that is not acceptable.'

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