Absentee landlords blamed for empty shop problems in Flintshire town centres
Absentee landlords have been blamed for causing problems with empty shops in Flintshire’s town centres.
It follows senior councillors backing plans to use enforcement powers to bring derelict properties back into use.
Members of Flintshire Council’s ruling cabinet today (Tuesday, April 20) discussed a report which shows the decline of high streets in the county has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.
It warns that “dramatically reduced” spending in shops is likely to continue when the pandemic is over, leading to an increase in vacant units.
During a discussion on proposals to address the situation, Cllr Chris Bithell, the council’s cabinet member for planning, said the issue had been caused by shops being owned by companies located elsewhere in the UK.
As a result, he said many landlords did not care about the condition of their properties.
Speaking at the virtual cabinet meeting, he said: “The report highlights the problems that we have in terms of absentee landlords.
“Many of our properties in our town centres are owned by companies which are based in Leeds, London or Manchester, with little interest in the properties apart from getting a cheque at the end of the month.
“They don’t tend to look after the property and some of them are looking a bit dilapidated to say the least.
“I was wondering whether we do have powers as a local authority to take over some of the more dire examples of buildings falling into dilapidation to take them over and bring them back into good use in the interests of the community and the town centres themselves.”
The report presented to cabinet members sets out a number of proposals to revive ailing shopping areas, including the use of enforcement powers to tackle long-standing vacant properties.
Officials said blocks of town centre units could be bought up and demolished to be replaced by housing or turned into green space, while smaller shopping centres could also be purchased by the council to redevelop them.
The authority is also looking to develop a community ownership model to ensure shops are used for the benefit of local people.
Approximately £1.5m worth of repayable funding has been made available by the Welsh Government to fund the projects in Flintshire.
However, a senior officer advised councillors the process to deliver the changes could be complicated.
Andrew Farrow, chief officer for economy, said: “The support package that we can access from Welsh Government advises us in terms of enforcement powers, and there’s a training package that sits behind that.
“I’m not going to tell you it’s straightforward but because sometimes it can be extremely complex.
“Part of this is putting the time and resources aside to understand the complexities and trying to unpick them.
“That’s what the two job posts that we’re recruiting to will assist with and hopefully that gives you assurance.”
Cabinet members agreed to back the measures aimed at regenerating town centres at the end of the meeting.
Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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