Formby's 359 vacant properties should be counted in Core Strateg

Bill Esterson and Catie Page

 

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.

In Formby alone, there are 359 empty properties, 92 of which have been empty for more than 24 months.

While Bill Esterson applauded the announcement of the launch of the Sefton Matchmaker scheme which aims to marry vacant properties with potential buyers, 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.

"Here in Formby there's 359 vacant properties. In Crosby and Hightown, there's 962. Across Sefton there's 6,136, according Sefton's own tally. That's a lot of empty properties which could alleviate any potential need to build on the greenbelt or greenspace.

"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 said the the high number of vacant properties in Formby, Hightown and throughout Sefton as a whole needed to be addressed.

Bill said: "I have been contacted by residents across Sefton Central, a large number in Formby and Hightown 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 Formby and Hightown. 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."

The MP urged residents who have yet to fill int he Sefton Core Strategy consultation document to do so.

Bill said: "Everyone needs to have their say on the Core Strategy and fill in the consultation document before Friday's deadline.

"It is only by the community making its views known that we will be able to show a weight of opposition to building on the greenbelt.

"I'd also encourage everyone to write to Eric Pickles who is the Minister who is responsible for relaxing the regulations for building on the greenbelt. He and the rest of his Tory-Lib Dem colleagues need to know that we will not allow this government to destroy our greenbelt."

Go to sefton.gov.uk/corestrategy to complete the Core Strategy consultation document.

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