800 homes empty in Gloucester

Jeremy Hilton campaigning to resolve the empty homes problem

Nearly 800 homes in Gloucester are empty, research by the Liberal Democrats has revealed. The figures, uncovered through Freedom of Information requests, show that there are 791 homes across the city that have been empty for six months or more.

Of these, 299 had been empty for two years or more, 95 for five years or more, and 37 have stood empty for at least 10 years in Gloucester.

Across the country more than 11,000 homes have been lying empty for longer than a decade, the Lib Dem figures show.

Conservative-controlled Gloucester City Council has failed to make use of Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMO) in the last five years – powers used by local authorities to take over properties that have been empty for at least six months.

This is despite the fact that some people in Gloucester have spent Christmas without a permanent home – living in temporary accommodation.

Nationally only 19 of the 247 councils in England and Wales that responded had used an EDMO in the past five years. Of these only six had used one in the past year.

Councillor Jeremy Hilton, the Liberal Democrat group leader on Gloucester City Council, said: “At a time when the homelessness crisis is worsening and more and more people are sleeping out in the cold on our streets, it is a scandal that so many homes locally are sitting empty.

“These homes could be turned into affordable places to live for those that need it in Gloucester.

“The Government needs to urgently review the current system which is clearly not working and Gloucester City Council needs to be given the powers and resources to bring empty homes back into use.

“It is shameful that Gloucester City Council has failed to use existing powers to end this scandal. People have spent Christmas without a permanent home because of Conservative inaction and ineptitude.”

Councillor David Brown, the Liberal Democrat housing spokesman on Gloucester City Council, added: “These desperately needed reforms must form part of a wider package to tackle the housing crisis, including building more homes on unused public sector land and clamping down on land-banking.”

Gloucester Lib Dems call for new ‘City Plan’ for Gloucester

Map of proposals from 1983 Gloucester local plan

Map of proposals from 1983 Gloucester local plan

Gloucester City Council is to debate a motion from the Liberal Democrat group, at council on Thursday. The Lib Dems are calling for a new City Plan for Gloucester, which will be an up to date set of polices that will become the development framework for Gloucester for the next few years.

Lib Dem leader, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton (Kingsholm & Wotton) said: “The last adopted development plan dates back to 1983. Its 33 years old and a lot has changed in Gloucester since then. Both Labour and Conservative administrations, in that time, have failed to get updates to the plan adopted as required by the government. We are asking the cabinet member for housing & planning to report back to council in September on how he intends to deliver a new City Plan. We want it adopted as a matter of urgency.”

The current timetable for approving the new City Plan was for it to be approved by council in time to go to the planning inspector in the winter of 2016 for adoption in 2017. Liberal Democrats are concerned that the delays in approving a new City Plan could allow a developers to override current polices arguing they are out of date, despite many being formally being ‘saved’ by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in 2007.
Cllr. David Brown (Hucclecote), Lib Dem spokesperson for housing & planning said: “The city council have a timetable to deliver the City Plan but due to the delay in adopting the Joint Core Strategy (JCS) it is now woefully outdated. We need the council to be able to work with developers from a position of strength, with a clear plan for the city, a plan that best benefits current and future residents. For that we need a City Plan that is fit for the future sooner rather than later.”

The new City Plan should be a development document that sits beneath the JCS. It must explain how the council will implement the spatial vision and strategic objectives in the JCS up to the year 2031 and provide criteria that it will apply when considering planning applications for different types of buildings or other development.

Private Sector tenants need longer tenancies says Jeremy Hilton

More must be done to protect tenants who rent their home from private landlords says “Gloucester Born and Bred” Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, Cllr. Jeremy Hilton.

Jeremy Hilton said: “In the last few years there has been a big increase in the number of people who rent their homes in the private sector. There are good landlords and there are rogue ones.

“Most people just have a six month short-hold tenancy agreement. Tenants can be given just two months notice once the six month tenancy ends. This means tenants having just 8 months to live in their home before they have to move out. Imagine moving home every 8 months out of no choice of your own. I believe this is unfair and disruptive to family life.

“I am pleased that the Liberal Democrats will encourage more multi-year private sector tenancies. They will have an agreed inflation linked annual rent increase built in. This would protect the tenants and reassure the landlord the rent keeps pace with inflation.”