Enforcement could be taken by council to deal with empty town centre properties
Rory Sheehan, Local Democracy Reporter
Enforcement action could be taken by Flintshire Council to deal with empty properties blighting the county’s town centres.
A report on town centre regeneration is to be looked at by members of the Council’s Environment and Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
It looks at how the county’s town centres can emerge from the pandemic and the other challenges they are currently facing.
A summary of the report states: “Smaller town centres across the United Kingdom have been facing challenging economic circumstances for many years due to changing customer behaviours.
“The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated these trends and although it remains too early to understand the long term impacts it is important that future proofing towns is addressed by creating more sustainable use of properties within town centres.
“This report provides an update on the strategic context for town centre regeneration and the programmes of work currently underway.
“It provides details about the development of Place Plans and the enforcement action required to tackle empty properties within town centres.”
‘Place Plans’ are expected to be drawn up for the county’s seven towns. These plans are documents which focus on the infrastructure needs of communities.
It is recommended that initial Place Plans are developed for Buckley, Holywell and Shotton. Connah’s Quay and Queensferry would be next, followed by Mold and Flint.
The report looks at some of the issues challenging town centres, particularly in light of the pandemic, and the need for the authority to get tough on empty premises blighting the towns.
It states: “Although there is a relatively low proportion of vacant retail units in Flintshire town centres, there is considerable underused space above the ground floor and weak business resilience is believed to mask the true picture which manifests in gradually declining building condition and a lack of investment.
“There are a small number of longer-term vacant properties in towns which can have a blighting effect on their locality.
“Although Flintshire town centres have not been immune to this process, the loss of major national chains and the increase in vacant floor space has not been as significant an issue as local towns had very few national brands still present and Woolworths was the only closure of significance.
“The loss of high street banks has been more significant in a number of Flintshire towns. This gradual decline in vitality has, in turn, impacted on the scale and vitality of the street markets in the county.”
The report adds that funding is available from the Welsh Government to support enforcement action.
It says: “Welsh Government has developed an Empty Property Enforcement Programme with financial support package available to Local Authorities who wish to undertake enforcement action on prominent town centre empty properties.
“To gain access to this fund, it is a requirement that representatives from the local authority have attended Welsh Government training and produced their own local action plan for dealing with long-term empty properties through enforcement action.
“The properties to be targeted will remain confidential to enable effective and commercially sensitive discussions to be held with property owners.”
The meeting takes place on Tuesday (October 11).
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