A new council policy to bring long-term empty properties back into use has been approved – but Worthing is lagging years behind its neighbours, a councillor claimed.
Worthing Borough Council approved an enforced sales procedure last week, which would enable the authority to sell off long-standing empty properties and recover unpaid debts.
But Green councillor James Doyle highlighted Worthing was behind the times, with Arun District Council bringing more homes back into use than Worthing’s overall number of vacant properties.
He told full council last Tuesday: “I am happy to welcome this. Everyone is aware there is a problem in Worthing.
“What I feel sad about is how late we are to the party on this.”
According to Mr Doyle’s statistics, sourced from Government data, Worthing reduced the number of empty homes between 2004 and 2015 from 417 to 334 – a decrease of 19.9 per cent.
Arun, meanwhile, cut its figure by 647 properties to 449 – a 59 per cent reduction.
Further west, 409 empty homes in Chichester was cut by 217 to 192 – a 53.1 per cent decrease.
Council leader Dan Humphreys said the council was now ‘ploughing ahead’, adding the new policy was just a ‘strand’ of work the borough was undertaking on housing.
He said he ‘took the point’ Mr Doyle had made but the council would now do all it could to move forward.
The policy will be in place for both Adur and Worthing councils, with Adur approving the same document on Thursday.
Once a property has been identified, a council officer will prepare a report and ask the legal services team to assess the case. The dwelling must have been vacant for more than six months and the total debt in excess of £1,000.
The owners of the property must have been served with relevant documents and any potential enforcement notices served beforehand.
An exception could be made, the document states, if the property is derelict and its owners can either not be traced or refuse to cooperate.
A report stated such properties could be ‘targets for vandalism and havens for antisocial behaviour’.