Use empties before sacrificing green space, say Greens

Edinburgh should pay more heed to empty homes before sacrificing precious green space for new housing development.

That is according to Green Councillor Steve Burgess, following his successful appeal to the City Council to adopt a comprehensive empty homes plan.

Edinburgh has the highest number of vacant private sector properties anywhere in Scotland, totaling almost 5,000 at the last Census in 2001.  Councillor Burgess won overwhelming backing for a motion on empty homes at the October meeting of Council, with only the Conservatives opposed.

The motion commits the City Council to discussions with the Scottish Government over introducing similar powers to those in England, where local authorities can take over temporary management of long term empty private property.  At the same time, council staff are also being asked to look at a range of positive incentives to bring property back into use – such as advice, assistance with letting and help with improvement costs.

Councillor Burgess said:

“As house prices rocket, Edinburgh is facing unprecedented pressure to build new housing, both in the green belt around the city and in many small sites within the boundaries.  Some of these sites are much-loved green and open spaces which, once lost, can never be replaced.  I want to make sure that we are doing everything we possibly can to make best use of what we have already got, before even thinking about losing more land to housing which few can afford.

“So I look forward to Edinburgh losing its place at the top of the empty homes league.�

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Steve Burgess’s motion of 25 October read

Council:

“Notes that Edinburgh has the highest number of private sector residential premises in Scotland.

“Notes that, with significant housing affordability problems in the city and pressure to develop on every available site, any property vacant without good reason represents a waste of resources.

“Notes that local authorities in England have new powers – Empty Dwelling Management Orders – which give them greater leverage in efforts to bring empty homes into use; and calls for dialogue with Scottish Government ministers on the introduction of comparable powers in Scotland. 

“Calls for a comprehensive empty homes strategy to be put in place, targeting long term empty properties and seeking to bring together a range of incentives and sanctions which will maximize the use of residential dwellings.”  
 
2. It is estimated that Edinburgh has almost 5,000 vacant private sector properties (4,900 according to the 2001 post census vacant survey) and this is the highest in Scotland (by comparison Glasgow has 3,134).