Civic watchdog blasts ‘tiny developments’

Alison Gifford and research papers, with the backdrop of King's Lynn Custom House ENGANL00120120914142613
Alison Gifford and research papers, with the backdrop of King's Lynn Custom House ENGANL00120120914142613

The King’s Lynn Civic Society has spoken out at the number of empty properties that are to be found within the borough of West Norfolk.

In its annual report released this week, the society says latest figures revealed that there were 2,383 empty homes registered with West Norfolk Council, of which 656 were subject to council tax exemptions or discounts.

Alison Gifford, chairman of the society, said: “We think creating homes from empty properties has a valuable role to play in meeting housing needs in an environmentally-sustainable way.

“We also know that people see empty homes as a blight on their neighbourhoods and that bringing them back into use can also bring wider improvements to local areas.

“At the same time, we recognise that to meet housing needs more homes need to be built, too.

“Both building homes and creating new homes from empty properties should play a role in tackling the housing crisis.”

Miss Gifford acknowledged that “not all empty houses are problematic, because housing markets need some empty properties to function”.

But she added: “1,026 properties were long-term empty. That is 1,026 families who could have a home in a few months if the proper legal acton was taken.

“The owners would get the market price and someone would have a much-needed home. There is an empty home strategy but it seems to consist of writing about the empty home strategy, though no doubt I shall be corrected on that.”

She also said that the “second-home syndrome” was obviously part of the problem of homelessness.

“In West Norfolk there is estimated to be 2,900 houses (five per cent of the housing stock).

“In North Norfolk it is a whopping 9.5 per cent, depriving local people of a house in their village, pushing up house prices and leading to ghost communities.”

Miss Gifford said that the “Clenchwarton Effect”, whereby a planning inspector in the Fosters Sports Ground appeal ruled that the borough council could not demonstrate that it had a five-year supply of deliverable housing, was continuing to have a detrimental effect.

“Now, of course, any private developer must feel they will get permission to build wherever they like in the borough and the borough planners are also racing to show they do have plans for five years of deliverable housing.

“Coming soon near you – 20 tiny houses and no parking – flood plain or not.”

One of these applications is highlighted by Helen Russell-Johnson, in her contribution to the annual report on planning.

She said: “Freebridge won their appeal to build four tiny houses on a tiny plot of land at the back of Austin Street (in Lynn).

“There are no parking places so the long-term car park will continue filling up with residents’ cars, leaving fewer spaces for people coming into King’s Lynn.”

Mrs Russell-Johnson also said: “Another worrying outline application is the prospect of 110 houses at Gaywood Hall. The building has had a request for listing refused recently so also lacks protection. Imagine the prospect of an extra 100 cars trying to get out onto the main road in the morning.”