Fenland council leader Alan Melton has hit back at claims the authority is doing little or nothing to improve derelict and dilapidated buildings across the district.
Mr Melton was speaking in response to a campaign by local MP Steve Barclay pressing for action on the derelict buildings, which have become a major bug bear for people across Fenland and particularly in Wisbech.
Mr Barclay has launched an on-line parliamentary petition which aims to force Fenland Council to use its powers to force landlords into rectifying their properties.
He carried out an in-depth review of the legislation regarding derelict buildings to make sure there were sufficient powers available to local authorities to act.
Mr Barclay said the review showed the legislation was more than sufficient and should not be preventing Fenland from taking action over buildings like Constantine House in Wisbech.
And he accused Fenland of ‘prevaricating’ over the issue.
Councils can force landlords to act by taking legal action and property owners can find themselves with hefty fines or even prison sentences if they fail to comply.
But Mr Barclay said Fenland had not even undertaken a review of landlords and whether or not they have other assets which could be used to recoup any council expenditure.
However, Mr Melton said it was difficult to take action against landlords as only the owners of Constantine House had been identified, owners of other properties like the Phoenix Hotel in Wisbech had not been discovered although it is believed it belongs to a Chinese consortium. And Mr Melton is adamant the council does not have the funds to carry out repairs on derelict buildings and then have to wait to go through the process of reclaiming it back.
“If we commit £500,000 to repair a building in Wisbech it will mean other projects like the renovation of the George Campbell swimming pool at March will have to be put on hold. Our budget has been cut by the government and there is just no money and that is a fact,” said Mr Melton, who added the council was close to taking legal action against the owners of Constantine House.
But Mr Barclay said there are no excuses and the council should act.
“If the council instigates legal action and a court imposes a £1,000 a day fine on the landlord, I’m confident they will soon come forward. And all money spent on buildings is recoverable - either by forcing the sale of the property, or by taking county court action against the landlord if they have other assets,” he said.
To sign Mr Barclay’s Parliamentary Petition visit: www.stevebarclay.net/derelict-buildings