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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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Rate of empty homes in Barrow area among highest

THE Barrow borough has the seventh highest proportion of empty houses in England, with population decline and a lack of affordable housing blamed for the figures.

In 2013, there were 1,660 empty properties in the borough out of a total of 32,570 dwellings, according to statistics from campaign group Empty Homes.

The rate of 5.1 per cent is one of the highest in England – with only Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle and Rossendale recording worse results than Barrow.

The survey also found the local authority has 578 “long-term” empty homes, which are defined as properties that have been empty for more than six months.

Councillor Dave Pidduck, leader of Barrow Borough Council, admitted the figures were “worrying”.

He said: “We are starting to see council housing becoming empty as people move out because of the government’s bedroom tax.

“While it’s worrying at this moment in time, we are looking towards the future.

“For us as a council, the good news is that over the next couple of years there is going to be major investment happening within the borough and obviously that starts to make an impact.”

Cllr Pidduck expects the number of empty homes in the borough to decrease over the coming years due to investment at BAE and Sellafield.

The Empty Homes figures apply to both private and council-owned properties.

There are 1,365 empty homes in Copeland (4.2 per cent of the total housing stock), and 2,010 empty homes in South Lakeland (3.9 per cent).

The English average is 2.8 per cent, meaning all three districts in Cumbria are above the national trend.

One of the believed reasons for Barrow’s large stock of empty homes is the town’s declining population, which fell by four per cent according to the 2011 Census.

Katie Teasdale, North West external affairs manager for the National Housing Federation, also says rising house prices, rising rents and stagnant wages are discouraging first-time buyers in the area.

According to the Valuation Office Agency, the average private sector weekly rent in Barrow in 2012 was £104.77.

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