Jack Brereton, Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South, has criticised Stoke-on-Trent City Council and called on the Leader of the Council to use appropriate powers to enforce on buildings in a poor condition within our town centres and conservation areas following concerning information received on Section 215 Notices issued by the Council.
Jack Brereton MP made a Freedom of Information Request ‘for the release of data on the number of Section 215 (s215) (Town & Country Planning Act 1990) notices have been issued by the City Council within the last 12 months.’
Stoke-on-Trent City Council have provided the MP with a response of ‘Zero’.
The response received has drawn serious criticism from Jack Brereton MP:
“Residents in Stoke-on-Trent take great pride in our heritage and town centres. They want to see action to help our high streets to thrive. I was appalled and extremely concerned to see that the City Council have effectively sat back and not used their appropriate powers over the last 12 months, issuing zero Section 215 notices, despite my repeated requests for use of these powers.
“They are letting down residents and businesses who want to see action taken and improvements made in our town centres. It is shocking that no action is being taken against those owners who are absent or wilfully allow their properties to get into such a terrible state of repair. This is damaging our high streets and for this reason, I have written to the Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council to express my concerns and urge the Council to use their power and issue Section 215 Notices where appropriate.”
Jack also recently submitted a new Bill to Parliament named the ‘High Streets (Designation, Review and Improvement Plan) Bill’, which is focused on improving the condition of our high streets.
His Bill is focused on getting local authorities to assess the condition of our high streets and come up with action plans to help them improve. The Bill does not create new powers for local authorities but is about getting them to better use the powers they have already got, working with other stakeholders on our high streets, to focus on providing the focus our high streets need to improve.
A Section 215 Notice are a key part of this and allows a local planning authority to serve notice on property owners who fail to properly maintain their building. Government guidance encourages local authorities to use these powers proactively to help regenerate communities.
The issuing of a 215 Notice have little cost to a local authority other that the officer time needed to make the notice. Any further costs would only be incurred if the council decided to pursue further legal avenues or carry out works themselves, and these costs are likely recoverable. Historic England have also previously offered to work with the City Council to develop use of these powers locally as they have with other local authorities nationally, but the City Council have to date not taken up such offers of support.