Council moves to tackle borough’s problem properties

Unoccupied and run-down properties are a problem in residential and commercial areas across the borough.
Unoccupied and run-down properties are a problem in residential and commercial areas across the borough.

The council’s Environment Committee has endorsed a set of proposals aimed at tackling problems associated with abandoned and neglected properties.

At their January meeting, committee members gave their unanimous backing to a model drawn up by officers from the council’s environmental health and building control departments, designed to deal with dangerous and dilapidated buildings.

Officers Clifford Todd (environmental health) and David Blair (building control) presented members with a report entitled ‘Dilapidation’, detailing the limited powers currently available to the council and other statutory agencies such as the Housing Executive, Department of the Environment and Roads Service. They also outlined the various options available to the council to tackle problem properties within the borough.

Under the proposals, any properties deemed ‘dangerous’ and representing an imminent risk to neighbouring buildings will warrant immediate action from building control. Notice will be served on the property owner, if they can be traced, to ensure they take urgent action.

If an owner fails to comply, the council will carry out any necessary work to make the property safe and then try to recover any costs incurred through the courts.

Those buildings classified as ‘not dangerous’ will be assessed using a matrix system to determine necessary action by the owner.

The council’s matrix will be used to prioritise resources for dealing with ‘non dangerous’ properties. It will consider issues such as the aesthetic condition of the property, its impact on attached buildings, whether or not it is attracting problems such as fly-tipping and anti-social behaviour and whether agencies such as the PSNI and Fire and Rescue Service have any concerns.

Councillors from all parties welcomed the new proposals and several suggested sites around the borough which officers should look at as a matter of priority.

A pilot survey will be carried out between now and March, with a more comprehensive survey of properties across the borough being completed by environmental health and building control staff during the 2014/15 financial year.

Councillors were provided with a special telephone number to report any dilapidated or problem properties in their district electoral areas.

A council spokesperson said that members of the public should report issues about ‘problem properties’ to environmental health officers on 028 9034 0161 or by using the Reportall smartphone app.