First empty home sold in bid to tidy up town

ATTEMPTS to spruce up the town’s empty buildings took a step forward this week as one of the homes on Hastings Borough Council’s hit-list was sold.

The local authority has promised to act after the Observer revealed more than 800 houses were sitting unused across 1066 Country – with many rapidly falling into disrepair.

Concerns were raised that the problem was making Hastings look down-trodden to visitors and also opening up a Pandora’s box of opportunities for squatters.

The council’s cabinet decided to act and agreed back in December to begin using the authority’s powers to force owners to either do up their homes or sell them.

And this week the first of the homes targeted by the council went under the hammer at auction.

The property, 85 The Ridge, was built in 2000 but was never actually registered as finished by the council’s building control department.

But now the sale has gone through, council staff will be sitting down with the new owners to find out what they plan to do with the property.

Councillor Trevor Webb, head of housing at the authority, was delighted the clean-up drive was moving forward.

He said: “I hope this is good news and that another owner will now want to ensure the property is in habitable condition and then make bring it back into use.

“In which case our tough empty homes policy has worked. But we will have to see.”

Hastings Borough Council is starting out by targeting buildings which have been empty for a number of years and have promised to use its award-winning Grotbusters team to make the scheme a success.

The Grotbusters identify shabby looking homes and either carry out necessary repair work and bill the owner, or force them to do the work themselves.

Councillors have also said that should owners persist in allowing homes to fall into ruin they will invoke compulsory purchase orders and essentially force the freeholders to sell up.

Next on the list is a St Leonards seafront basement flat, an empty terraced house on the West Hill and another in the Mount Pleasant area.

A pair of properties in the town centre and a three bed-roomed house in West St Leonards are also set to be addressed.