Sunday, 24 March 2019

Residents demand action on pair of derelict houses

Residents demand action on pair of derelict houses

A PAIR of derelict houses in Sonning Common could be compulsorily purchased.

The semi-detached properties have been in a state of disrepair for almost 40 years and residents and the parish council want them to be repaired or demolished.

They say the houses are an eyesore and are:

• Infested with rats.

• Used by squatters and people taking drugs.

• Plagued by Japanese knotweed growing in the gardens.

A woman who lives on Churchill Crescent, which backs on to the site, is worried about a tree in the grounds falling into her garden.

Eriks Teteris, 64, who lives at Josey Close opposite the houses, said: “People have tried to move in there but the thing is falling down and the timbers are so rotten.

“It looks like it could fall down and it’s dangerous. The floorboards are all rotten. It is a hazard, it really is.

“Kids use it as an ideal place to go and do dope or whatever they do. I do not doubt there are rat infestations.

“It has been like that for so long, it is unbelievable. Everyone desperately wants something done with the place because it is an eyesore. It needs to be demolished or have a lot of money spent on it.”

Parish clerk Philip Collings said: “It is an eyesore and an affront to the whole village and a health hazard as well. At this time of year the rats are moving about.”

He has asked Paul Harrison, who represents the village on South Oxfordshire District Council, about the possibility of a compulsory purchase order to establish who owns the houses.

Mr Collings said: “It certainly meets the criteria for intervention. It will take three or four months to get the district council to come to their conclusion. If we can’t get this dealt with, we can’t get anything dealt with.

“We want to get the eyesore out the way. It is a blot on the landscape and we want it brought back into occupation.

“We would rather that the owner came back, did them up and put them on the market.”

Councillor Harrison said: “The fact is that this place has been left derelict for so many years. Personally, I think it is ridiculous that this has been allowed to drag on for so long. The community wants a resolution and I fully support that.

“I have been pushing to get compulsory purchase, particularly as there are issues such as Japanese knotweed. You also have the front garden overgrowing into the road, which could cause potential danger if it is not maintained.

“I have been involved in trying to sort this out four times. Each time, we have been told by officers it is not possible.

“There is the financial cost to the district council of going through a compulsory purchase order process. It is a shame to lose unoccupied properties when there is such a housing shortage, particularly around this area.

“We want the houses restored and usable again and occupied. It would be great to have two small properties brought back into use because if they are relatively small they will appeal to low wage earners.”

The houses are believed to have been inherited by a brother and sister who could not decide what to do with them.

In 2011, parish councillor Chrissie Godfrey called for them be demolished or reoccupied.

The district council said it could take over the homes if they had been unoccupied for more than six months. They could then be rented out as social housing and the rent could be used for any maintenance work.

However, because the cost of repairing them was so much more than the rental incomes it was not prepared to help.

In January 2012, the district council said the same after another request for help.

It also said the houses would have to be given back to the owners after seven years.

In the same year there were about 400 unoccupied properties across the district and about the same number of families seeking accommodation.

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