Fenland’s planning councillors will next week be asked to approve taking action against the owner of Constantine House in Wisbech as part of the district council’s crackdown on eyesore buildings.
In a response to last week’s article in the Citizen, in which MP Steve Barclay criticised Fenland Council for its lack of action over such buildings on his oneline blog, the council said it shares the MP’s concerns.
“We share Steve Barclay’s concerns about the number of dilapidated or derelict buildings in Fenland and we have been taking active steps to resolve this important issue. Unlike London, Cambridge or many other towns, one of the key enforcement challenges is that the cost of rebuilding many of the derelict or dilapidated buildings far exceeds their market value,” the council said.
“The responsibility for the state of these buildings clearly rests with their owners.
“We are fully committed to working with property owners and pursuing those who fail in that duty while also doing all in our power as a council to tackle the general problem.
“There are no quick, easy answers and English Heritage have advised us that Section 215 notices are not always the most appropriate enforcement route. Our new approach is based on partnership, external funding, enforcement and early intervention.
“Much work has already been done in the past six months and a series of further actions are now under way. These include:
• A proposal to serve a Section 215 Notice on the owner of Constantine House in Wisbech going to the Planning Committee on November 13. This follows the Cabinet’s decision at the end of August to serve a final warning on the owner.
• Two papers are going to Cabinet on November 21. One sets out a revised policy on enforcement. The second will tackle the problem of premises that have a significant negative impact on the street scene. Under the proposals, all owners of such premises will be contacted and reminded of their responsibilities; a prioritised set of appropriate enforcement measures will be laid out to be taken against those who fail to act.
• The council is working on developing a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to help improve the centre of Wisbech encompassing two long-term dilapidated properties.
These moves are part of an overall strategy for continuing to improve the district street scene. That broader approach is being overseen by Cabinet members – Cllrs Simon King, Peter Murphy and David Oliver who are meeting with council officers each month.
Cllr King said: “A lot of good work has already been done through our Renaissance and Shopfront programmes, the regeneration work on the Nene Waterfront and by volunteers such as the Wisbech Society, the March Society, the Whittlesea Society and the newly begun Chatteris Society, as well as various Street Pride and Friends groups.”
Council officers have also spoken to their counterparts in other authorities and said it will be writing to all the owners of buildings identified in recent walkabouts in the town centres and villages.