Observer Comment: Hastings’ empty homes disgrace

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THERE are almost 3,000 people waiting to be homed in Hastings. There are almost 2,000 homes standing empty.

The mathematics are simple but yet again council sums do not add up.

On top of the thousands and thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money wasted buying the properties along Gillsmans Hill way back in the 1970s, the county council has also spent thousands on maintenance.

This money alone could have built a whole block of new flats to house our homeless.

There are eyesore buildings that have been left to wrack and ruin across our town.

Some are architectural gems that have been gobbled up by greedy developers only to be abandoned half way through or in many cases a brick has never even been laid.

Hastings Borough Council has its empty homes strategy but at 30 compulsory purchase orders a year it could be another 100 years before they run out of buildings to buy.

What is needed is a dedicated government task force that goes into towns like Hastings and St Leonards and roots out the homes that can be regenerated quickly and economically.

Taxpayers would not begrudge paying extra every few years if it meant housing the homeless, getting rid of eyesore buildings and providing a roof over the heads of our more needy members of society.

Since local councils were allowed to sell off their council housing stocks, it appears they have lost the ability to provide decent homes and maintain them to a high standard.

Just guaranteeing a new block of flats can accommodate a few social housing spaces is not good enough.

The fabric of caring for people and places is crumbling yet again just like our long forgotten and neglected houses.

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THE death of Amy Pickard is a stark reminder of the power that drugs have to devastate families.

At the inquest into her death on Wednesday, December 7, the court heard how she survived until 2009, but her life as she knew it changed dramatically in 2001 when the then pregnant 17-year-old fell into a heroin-induced coma, leaving her severely brain damaged.

The drug also claimed the lives of Amy’s daughter, who died soon after being born by Caesarian, and her then partner Michael Morfee, who died of a drugs overdose just a few months later.

Amy’s mother Thelma Pickard, a former nurse devoted the next eight years to her daughter’s care.

Ms Pickard is adamant that young people need to wake up to the dangers of drug-taking, and such a tragic story can hardly fail to make people sit up and take notice.