Bill Esterson MP: Vacant properties must play a part in Sefton's

Bill Esterson

 

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson says the borough's Core Housing Strategy should include empty homes as a key element of meeting its housing need.

Sefton has more than twice the national average of vacant properties - the national average is 2% while the Sefton figure is 4.8% - the numbers are not considered as part of the first draft of the Core Strategy's estimate for housing need over the next 15 years because government rules prevent it from doing so.

Bill Esterson applauded the announcement of the launch of the Sefton Matchmaker scheme which aims to marry vacant properties with potential buyers, but he said the Core Strategy needs to use the current vacant properties in the borough.

Bill said: "The first draft of the Core Strategy does not take stock of the empty housing in Sefton. The reason for this is that the Tory-Lib Dem government does not allow vacant properties to be considered in the overall housing total.

"So if Sefton Council manages to get vacant properties reoccupied, they cannot deduct that number from the number of new properties required to cope with the forecast 'housing demand'. This is a crazy situation especially given the high number of empty homes across Sefton.

"While there are many questions about how the council came up with the number of houses required in the borough over the next 15 years, there is a bigger question about why they cannot count the number of vacant properties in their Core Strategy document."

Bill pointed to Blundellsands where there was a large number of long-term vacant large properties.

Bill said: "I have been contacted by residents across Sefton Central, a large number in Blundellsands who identify empty properties which have been vacant for a substantial amount of time.

"I know that Sefton Council is now doing some work on identifying empty properties and seeing just how they can be brought back into use, or if private property owners can be contacted to bring them back up to standard so they aren't detrimental to the local community. That together with the work which Cllr Ian Maher is doing with the regeneration team is a good start. But the Core Strategy itself needs to take into account all of the borough's properties and that means a change of heart from the government.

"Demand for housing and certain types of properties in Southport will be different to the demand for housing in Blundellsands. That needs to be at the core of the strategy, along with demographics and a full review of the numbers and types of housing needed.

"Instead, what we are getting, is this Tory-Lib Dem government painting Sefton and other local authorities into a corner for the sake of pandering to their big business friends and allowing developers to run rough shod over the views of the local community. The new planning rules will mean building on Sefton's countryside rather than bringing empty homes back into use. I will be fighting for a re-think by the government so that Sefton can have a more sustainable approach to housing."