Questions to Members of the Cabinet.
Councillor J M Morris outlined a series of questions directed towards Councillor Fuller on action the Council proposed to take to reduce the number of long term empty homes in the District and with 400+ homes empty for more than six months what has the Council done to bring them back into use. He further questioned whether the Council would consider exploring the option of offering financial assistance to owners of long term empty homes to assist with renovation to make them habitable and consideration to the implementation of an Empty Homes Strategy.
In response, Councillor Fuller referred to the technical definition of empty homes being over two years and with 122 empty homes across the whole District it represented the second lowest in the County and 0.2% of the District’s housing stock. He explained that there may be a series of reasons why the homes had remained empty, from probate issues through to gaps in tenancies. He reminded Members of their adoption of the Housing Strategy last year with a policy on empty homes that had been considered by a cross-party working groups and approved. In conclusion, the Chairman suggested that Members would benefit from a briefing on the subject to further clarify any misunderstandings as he suggested that this was a concern for many Members.
In response to a question by Councillor T Hayward on closure of the level crossing at Buckden and The Offords, Councillor Fuller explained that representations had been made previously to the Minister and Network Rail on this issue that had been assimilated into discussions on the East/West rail link and a response had been expected imminently. Councillor Hayward further questioned the potential for re-treeing the A14 following the decimation of the route of trees and planting, with Highways England indicating that planting would commence as each section had been completed and Councillor Fuller undertook to take on-board the issue raised with a view to continuing discussions.
Arising from a question from Councillor T D Sanderson, Councillor Fuller explained that the Council’s responsibility for homeless families did not end until they had been adequately provided for.
Councillor P Kadewere requested an update on the issues raised at the previous Council meeting of the post master at the Oxmoor, whereby the Executive Leader had referred the matter previously to the Commercial Estates Team and undertook to follow up the issue again. He further raised a question in relation to the closure of shops within the Town Centres and what the Council could do to assist revitalise these locations. In response, Councillor Gray referred to his presentation and the CIS focus at looking at opportunities for investment in the High Street and would look to work with retailers in all of the market towns to take forward this vision.
Councillor P L E Bucknell raised a question in relation to the proposal in Warboys for two waste treatment plants for biomass energy to burn waste wood and process polluted water and highlighted residents’ concerns in relation to the location and operating hours and whether the Council had replied to the consultation on the planning application. In response Councillor Fuller explained that although he did not have the power to influence planning applications the Executive Leader and Councillor Mrs J Tavener had made representations to him previously and although the matter rested with the County Council he undertook contact the Head of Development to ensure that a representation had been submitted on this matter.