Homes empty for decades ‘must be brought into use’

Cllr Phil Scott outside one of the empty homes
Cllr Phil Scott outside one of the empty homes

TEN homes which have sat empty for decades must be brought back into use, a councillor has said.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) bought the St Leonards properties to pursue a road-widening scheme as part of the ongoing proposals for a Hastings bypass or link road.

Some of the houses – which are in Gillsmans Hill, The Green, Ironlatch Avenue and Sedlescombe Road South – were bought way back in the late 1970s when the scheme was first mooted at County Hall.

And now Cllr Phil Scott, who represents Hollington and Wishing Tree on the county council, has hit out at the authority, pointing out that the houses could be used to help local families, and that unused they are a beacon for crime and anti-social behaviour.

“It is an absolute disgrace that the ESCC has allowed these properties to remain empty for this amount time and to fall into disrepair,” he said.

“Had all of the properties been maintained over time they could have been let out to families to that desperately need them, at a time when some families we know are losing their homes because of the economic climate.”

Cllr Scott has submitted a motion for the next ESCC meeting calling on the authority to take immediate steps to bring them back into use.

And he contrasted the ESCC dithering with the Hastings Borough Council approach. Since taking control of the council in May, the Labour administration has made its empty homes strategy a key part of its regeneration plans.

It has already issued compulsory purchase orders for five homes and at Monday’s cabinet meeting it was agreed to double the target for the number of empty homes to be brought back into use over the next year, from 15 to 30.

“It is a great shame the county council does not lead by example,” Cllr Scott told his colleagues.

A spokesman for ESCC said: “We understand the concern that some residents and local councillors have about this issue and we want to assure people that we will only hold on to these properties as long as it is necessary.

“In the meantime, we will continue to work with HBC to mitigate the possible negative impact that these properties may have on the local area.

“This includes day-to-day issues such as possible vandalism and or general repairs.”