Greenwich Council are to initiate enforcement action against the owner of a shop left vacant for 20 years in New Eltham.
In a reply at the council’s full meeting tonight (Wednesday 26th October) Cllr Denise Hyland noted in a written reply (see Question 18 here):
“With regard to the state of the rear of the premises at 356 Footscray Road, Planning Enforcement will be pursuing enforcement action under Section 215 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 (the Act).
This regulation provides the local planning authority with the power to take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area.”
Section 215 is a power open to councils if a building or land in private hands falls into disrepair. It was used in Plumstead after some resistance from the authority.
Since it was issued in Plumstead, the building has been refurbished.
Section 215 forces owners to pay for work. If they refuse the authority can undertake work and place a levy against the property to later recoup.
Whether Criterion Estate, who own empty units in New Eltham will act is another matter. They have failed to respond to previous letters and left buildings vacant for 20 years.
They are also in arrears for business rates to the tune of £16,360.12.
The Section 215 is on 356 Footscray Road alone though they also own 240 Footscray Road.
It should also be noted that this notice only applies to the rear of the property. Councils have very little power to take over or force action on long-empty shop units unless in a state of disrepair.
Even then, an owner may ignore or carry out remedial work but not let out the unit.
That may change, and Cllr Hyland notes in her reply:
“I remain mildly optimistic that the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill introduced to Parliament in May 2022 and now at committee stage, will give councils the new powers it needs to resolve the issue of empty properties, get them back into use and restore pride of place”.
Other questions from councillors note that councils have greater power to takeover empty residential properties – flats are above the shops – though this is expensive and takes some time. There’s no commitment to doing this.
In terms of failing to pay business rates, it is noted that: “340 Footscray Road a final notice for payment has been issued.
This allows 14 days for payment to be received. If payment is not received by this time the business will be summonsed to Court for non-payment.
In respect of the empty shop at 356 Footscray Road, the business has been summonsed to attend a Court hearing on 8th November 2022 and the Royal Borough has added costs of £122.50 to the arrears amount outstanding.”