Action on Derelict Properties in Covingham and Nythe
On Friday 28th June, the Swindon Borough Council agreed with Cllr Dale Heenan to use Planning Enforcement legal powers to force owners to keep their derelict and abandoned properties tidy and maintained, or face the Magistrates Court and upto a £1000 fine.
Cllr Dale Heenan “There are limits to what Councils can do when properties are in private ownership, and that is how it should be. Planning enforcement normally deals with unauthorised developments and extensions. However, there are times when derelict properties become an eyesore and are detrimental to the street and Councils can step in.
Long running examples can be found in Covingham and Nythe, where properties have not been lived in for years.
Six residents attended my June surgery to urge action on this property, and I again raised this matter with Council Officers and the Borough Council Solicitor.
On Friday, as the Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and local Councillor for Covingham, I was able to secure agreement that the Council will start issuing section 215 orders with the Linnetsdene property as a first.
A report will be presented to the August Planning Committee setting out when it is appropriate to use this action through the Magistrates Court.
In a surprising turn of events 72 hours later, I have heard that the owner in Linnetsdene is now willing to sell by auction. The timing is uncanny but means this legal action may not be required, we will keep an eye on the matter.
This is in contrast to Compulsory Purchase Orders which are time consuming and expensive. It can take upwards of 2 years and requires a Council to pay the market value for a property.
It is a real shame that the Labour councillor for Covingham has refused to work with Cllr Richard Hurley to solve this problem, and has never met those Council Officers involved like Head of Planning or Borough Solicitor about this challenging issue”
The council can serve an ‘amenity’ notice on the owner of any land or building which is in an unreasonably untidy condition and we consider has an adverse affect on the amenity of the area. This is done under section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
This notice is used to maintain and improve the quality of the environment, to assist in tackling dereliction and retaining land in a productive use as well as contribute to the regeneration of an area and respond positively to public concerns.
Many of the problems of untidy land and buildings are relatively easy to put right for example:
- blocked gutters and down pipes – water ingress will eventually destroy a building through frost and rot,
- fallen fences, dilapidated walls / broken windows / graffiti,
- land with fly tipping, industrial or demolition waste,
- builders rubble,
- dumped sofas/furniture,
- abandoned vehicles,
- dumped tyres or
- overgrown gardens.
A notice can be served on the owner or occupier of any private land or building which is in an unreasonably untidy condition and which the Council consider has an adverse affect on the amenity of the area.
The Notice will specify what needs to be done to correct the situation within a given timescale. It is an offence not to comply with the notice within the specified period. If the requirements of the notice are not carried out in the required timescale the landowner could be fined and have a criminal record
There is a right of appeal against a notice issued under this section to the Magistrates Court. Failure to comply with the requirements of the notice constitutes a criminal offence subject on conviction to a fine not exceeding £1000.
The Council is also empowered to enter land to carry out the works specified in the notice and reclaim costs from the land owner – usually by means of a land charge on the land or property.