Landlords blamed for empty properties blighting Wakefield

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Landlords are to blame for empty properties blighting parts of Wakefield, a senior councillor has said.

Coun Olivia Rowley said that the public perception that the local authority could easily deal with vacant units in and around the city centre was unfair.

She referenced both Chantry House, on Kirkgate, and the former Wakefield Arms pub on Monk Street, which have both been derelict for years.

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The old pub in particular, has been branded an eyesore, attracting squatters and vandalism since it closed in 2003.

Planning permission was granted last February to turn the building into a block of 14 flats, but seven months on, the site still appears unchanged.

Speaking in a lively debate at an economic scrutiny committee on Monday, Coun Rowley said: “There always seems to be comments from people ahout how the city is run down in places. The impression is often given that we (the council) can do something about it.

“There’s one landlord who owns an awful lot of the properties in the city centre and he sets incredibly high rates.

“The rates people are paying are not determined by us.

“How can we have an influence when we don’t own most of the property?”

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Local authorities can issue compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) to force a landlord to sell property to them. But to do this they must prove a “compelling case in the public interest” and the process can be lengthy and expensive.

Wakefield West councillor Hilary Mitchell said: “I understand that the council doesn’t own these places, but the situation is laughable.

“Don’t we have CPO powers?”

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Clare Elliott, the council’s service director for economic growth and skills, said that Coun Rowley was “was completely right” about the issue and that a lot of the problems were “outside our remit”.

She added: “We’re doing everything we can to bring people into the city centre, improving leisure and the night-time economy offer, more residential properties and offices.”