Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Prodded into Action
At Monday’s Downing Street press briefing the Prime Minister’s spokesman fielded the inevitable question linking Empty Dwelling Management Orders to John Prescott’s presumably now vacant grace and favour home Dorneywood. Slightly mischievous of course, but the question built on points raised elsewhere this week that publicly owned empty homes are exempt from the new legislation. The reason they are exempt is because you can’t have the public sector taking action against itself. But that’s not to say that nothing should be done about publicly owned empty homes. There are about 140,000 of them up and down that country, and that’s too many. This story in today’s Telegraph shows what can be achieved. The ironically named Prescot Villas in the Newsham Park district of Liverpool are owned by Liverpool City Council and local Housing Associations but had been left empty for years. The council wanted to demolish them but local residents objected and used the PROD power forcing government to review the case. In a letter to the council, the Government Office for the North West's Director of Planning Jo Lappin says: "It appears that the land is not being used by the city council for the performance of their functions.” It says Ms Kelly "is not so far satisfied that the city council has any firm plans to sell, develop or bring the land into use within a reasonable timescale." The notice means that Liverpool council will be forced to sell the properties unless they bring them back into use.