Shock at huge number of empty homes

THERE are more than 28,000 homes standing empty in Suffolk and Essex, the EADT can reveal.The “startling” figure last night prompted campaigners to call for the unused properties to be considered before development begins on creating around half-a-million new homes in the region by 2021.

THERE are more than 28,000 homes standing empty in Suffolk and Essex, the EADT can reveal.

The “startling” figure last night prompted campaigners to call for the unused properties to be considered before development begins on creating around half-a-million new homes in the region by 2021.

New figures from the Empty Homes Agency show that there are 8,399 empty homes in Suffolk, of which 3,501 are long term - unused for six months or more.

In Essex there are 19,946 empty properties, including some 8,510 which are long term.


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The Suffolk figures account for around 3% of the county's housing stock, and represent an increase of almost 2,500 empty homes since late 2004.

The figures are revealed as the eastern region has to find space for around hundreds of thousands of new homes under the Government's regional plan by 2021.

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David Ireland, chief executive of the Empty Homes Agency, said: “It's an awful lot of homes which could be occupied - I know both Suffolk and Essex have a lot of housing need, and it strikes me that there's a great deal of potential within the existing stock.

“Not all of them could be brought back into use, but a lot of them could. I still don't think that there's enough action on the ground to put those two things together.

“It's nonsensical to say that we're going to build thousands of new homes and not consider those that are empty and already standing.

“It would never meet the full need, but if you ignore the existing stock you're missing a trick.”

Richard Ward, director of the Suffolk Preservation Society, described the figures as “startling.”

He added: “It's almost the equivalent of what some of the Suffolk authorities are being asked to build in terms of new homes under the regional plan up to the year 2021.

“It seems to me that we need to get policies in place to ensure that these homes are quickly occupied and take the pressure off plans to build new homes on greenfield sites, and lose valuable countryside.

“We can't afford as a county to have almost 8,500 homes in Suffolk unoccupied.”

Bernard Jenkin, Conservative MP for north Essex, said he wanted to know who owned the empty homes.

“I suspect the Ministry of Defence (MoD) owns a fair number of them, and that local authorities do as well.

“I have always argued that empty homes on MoD estates should be made available for homeless people, where practicable.

“As far as the others are concerned I would urge owners of empty properties to put them to good use, for their own benefit and that of the community.”

Responding to the concerns voiced, John Reynolds, chairman of the East of England Regional Planning Panel, said the figures should be treated with caution.

He added: “What we are anxious to do is to make sure that we can bring into use as many homes as possible to ease the burden that we have in the East of England for accommodation.

“However, it would be a relatively small percentage of the total number of homes that we want to see in the area, both for affordable housing and to meet the needs of a growing population.”

mark.heath@eadt.co.uk

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