When it comes to dealing with derelict and disused buildings and land, Councils are in a practically impossible position (but that’s quite normal for local government!). They have a set of ‘powers’ that are theoretically available but technically complex. In my experience, councillors quickly learn a default position to say they won’t use them – too difficult, too expensive, too risky (the DER response). It’s important to remember that this is a cultural and political position and it can be changed.
But once you get the ‘DER’ response, it can take years for a local community to campaign to get the local authority to pay attention and consider using its powers. Most will fail simply because people have better things to do, but others – doggedly persistent – will see it through to a win. The council will come round – through political pressure or officer change-of-heart, or both – but even after that it will take longer than tolerable to actually make it happen. (You’ll know I’m referring to Hastings Pier… the CPO process included unpredictable delays including the Secretary of State lecturing us about Ravenclaw’s human rights and the final document being sent to Panama by courier, who couldn’t deliver to a PO Box so had to return, mission unfulfilled, and rely on the royal mail instead!).
There are two ways that this unhelpful tension between democratically-elected local authorities and their voters concerned about precious buildings can be resolved – either making it easier for councils to use their powers (eradicating ‘DER’), or giving communities powers directly. Which would you advocate? ANSWER THE SURVEY! http://www.clicktools.com/survey?iv=yiytndcmileo
There are two councils I’m aware of that have consistently and systematically used particular powers over a sustained period:
- Great Yarmouth – compulsory purchase on heritage grounds
- Hastings – section 215 ‘grotbuster’ orders to tidy up the outside of buildings and charge the owner
I would welcome any additions to this list…
And then there is the terrible story of Manchester’s failed CPO of the London Road Fire Station. A compulsory purchase that (imho) should have happened, if the timely restoration of the Grade II* listed building was the primary consideration. Stan Edwards, CPO expert extraordinaire, has written a fascinating article (IRRV Valuer Journal May 2013 – CPOs Listed Buildings) exploring why it didn’t happen. It’s no wonder MCC feel burned and cross about it. They will need to be coaxed away from this ‘ghost’…