Friday, January 09, 2009

Empty Properties Recommendations

Lewisham's Sustainable Development Committee, which I chair, has this week published a report and recommendations following our scrutiny into the issues surrounding empty properties in the borough, an issue which is of course significant in Ladywell ward, and only likely to be exacerbated in the current economic climate. The full report can be viewed here. Our key recommendations were that:
  • Council staff need to share information more effectively about empty properties, and use their full range of enforcement powers to bring them back into use, including compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) where necessary as a last resort.
  • Owners of shop premises left empty by bankrupted businesses should be encouraged to make available to voluntary and community groups hungry for space, if commercial tenants are in short supply
  • The Council's refuse collectors could act as the community's eyes and ears by reporting when bins are consistently not left out, alerting empty homes officers early
  • There should be more publicity for residents about how to report empty or problematic properties and those with empty properties should be given more support in bringing them back into use.
  • Businesses should be made aware of the empty commercial properties database
Lewisham isn't necessarily worse than other local authorities on dealing with empty properties, in fact it has had notable success with its use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs). However, our scrutiny found that is lagging behind neighbouring boroughs such as Bexley in its use of planning enforcement legislation, and Lambeth in its use of CPOs.

I will present the report to Mayor & Cabinet on behalf of the committee in a couple of weeks, and hopefully the Mayor will look at implementing some of our proposals.

As far as 'problem properties' in Ladywell ward are concerned, as ward councillors we are continuing to follow up with planning and environmental health to get enforcement action taken on a number of properties, in particular 46 Ladywell Road (the former Nightwatch shop) and 67a Loampit Hill (the old shop on the corner of Tyrwhitt Road). We are hopeful of some progress on both soon, after two years of pushing for action, but can't say more at this stage.

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