Derbyshire Dales councillors have agreed to push ahead with plans to drastically hike council tax for owners of empty homes – and the authority could seek compulsory buy-outs of properties.
At a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, district members said that more homes were needed for young people - and yet some houses were sitting vacant for years on end.
Derbyshire Dales has the second highest number of long-term empty homes in the county, with 642, narrowly behind Amber Valley on roughly 650.
A consultation carried out by the district council, which had 227 respondents, found the majority of people were in favour of hiking tax for owners of empty homes.
As a result, councillors unanimously agreed to push forward with plans to double council tax for owners of homes which have been empty for more than two years from April 1 next year.
The following April, the authority will seek to introduce a triple charge for homes empty for five to 10 years, and by April 2020, a quadruple charge for houses empty for 10 or more years.
Only the double council tax charge is being brought in at this stage.
Council leader Councillor Lewis Rose said: “The fact that there are houses which have been empty for more than two years has been a scandal for quite a long time.
“The public are in favour of this and the government is encouraging us to do it.
“I’m sure the county council will find this very useful and we could get some more police. It could help these authorities that really need some money.
“It really isn’t right that some houses are vacant for more than two years.
“Of course, there are exceptions, but there are some houses that could be left empty for more than 10 years if something is not done.”
Coun Jo Wild also supported the move.
She said: “Empty houses are a crying shame, we need young people to move back into our villages.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Burfoot said: “They (empty homes) are an embarrassment.
“Many of them have overgrown gardens and one house I know of has become a fly-tipping site and is a health and safety hazard.
“We do have a problem with empty homes, probably more so in the Peak District, where homes are left empty for the vast majority of the time.”
Coun Jean Monks asked whether people who have had their homes for sale for an extended period of time, and have been unable to sell, would fall under the new levy.
Council officers said that if the home has been empty for two or more years it would be included, regardless of whether it had been for sale.
Coun Sue Burfoot said that owners of long-term homes should be told that the authority or a housing association will compulsory purchase the house if action is not taken.
Tim Braund, head of regulatory services for the authority, said: “We do have two houses for which we are gathering up case files for to see if compulsory purchase would be possible – this could possibly be enough to incentivise the owners.
“It does take a huge amount of time to build a case and to see what is legally possible.”
Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service