A derelict home which has stood empty for perhaps as long as 40 YEARS has topped a list of vacant properties blighting the Lynn community.
Lynn Civic Society has highlighted 51 London Road, Lynn, as the tip of the town’s iceberg of “forgotten” buildings – and has called on West Norfolk Council to take more action in the wake of a new policy to tackle the problem.
The group has raised concerns about the number of empty properties in the town, saying it is “selfish” to let them decline when there are people on the housing waiting list who are desperate for a home.
But the owner of another empty home highlighted by the Civic Society – 11 Valingers Road, Lynn, which has been empty for a decade – said bureaucracy made renovating properties and getting them back on to the market a “complex issue”.
Simon Jones, director of Wolferton-based Coalhouse Properties Ltd, said he bought the Valingers Road building around three years ago but only managed to obtain planning permission to renovate it a year-and-a-half ago.
He said: “It was a very long and frustrating period to secure planning consent. It’s not an empty building just sitting there doing nothing, we have got planning permission and the development is underway. The Civic Society knows this.
“The council was not particularly forthcoming in helping me get to this stage; where there were barriers to put up, there were barriers. It was a very long process that wasn’t aided at all by the local authority.”
Mr Jones added: “I support the idea that if someone’s got an empty house that is habitable then it should be put back into use, but this isn’t habitable in its current state. There are no walls, ceilings, floor boards, water or electricity.”
He also said under the government’s current VAT legislation, property developers were unable to claim back any costs unless the property had been empty for ten years or more.
“If someone waits 10 years they could reclaim 20 per cent of all costs, so on a property needing renovation costing £500,000, that’s £100,000 they could claim,” he said.
“More pressure needs to be put on local authorities and people like conservation officers who put up barriers to development. It’s not as simple as renovating somewhere and putting it back on the market, there is a bigger picture and a lot of the issues are caused by authorities and the bureaucratic system we’re in.”
The Lynn News contacted the owner of 51 London Road, but his wife made “no comment” and hung up the phone.
Helen Russell-Johnson, of Lynn Civic Society, said the number of empty homes in the town was a “huge concern” because of the size of the borough council’s housing waiting list.
She said: “It just seems so selfish to let these properties decline when other people are desperate for a home. They are also very unsightly. They harbour vermin which doesn’t help the neighbours and they just say there’s a lack of care about the place.
“The council has adopted a sensible policy on empty homes now and it is time for it to put that policy into use starting with the buildings that have been empty for a long, long time.”
Sue Cobb, director of Smiths the Bakers, which is next door to 51 London Road, said the property had been empty for about 35 years.
She said: “It would be nice to see it done up though it has, in the past, been in a worse state than it is in now. We are feeling a bit lonely along here now.”