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EMPTY houses in Melksham and the surrounding areas could be used to help homeless people in the community. However, residents and councillors are expressing their outrage at the lack of action taken by Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Two NHS lodge homes on Spa Road have been empty for around eight years, yet they could be put towards helping the growing number of homeless people in the area by transferring them to the affordable housing market.
Deputy Mayor cllr Jon Hubbard said, “It is a disgrace that these homes have been kept empty, and are now in such a dilapidated condition. It costs money for a landowner to keep houses empty, what a complete waste of public funds. There is no excuse for stopping these homes being fixed up and put on the housing register – unless the CCG have got secret plans that they are not sharing with anyone.
“It is nothing short of outrageous that the Wiltshire CCG is, in effect, spending money to keep people homeless in our community.”
A spokesperson for NHS property services said, “Ownership of the properties was transferred to us in July 2017 from Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. We only sell NHS property that has been declared surplus to the needs of the NHS by the local organisations that plan and pay for healthcare, which has not happened in this case. However, as part of our remit to manage our estate efficiently, we are supporting local NHS partners to assess whether these properties will be needed in the future.”
A Wiltshire CCG spokesperson said, “To help us understand the future healthcare estate and infrastructure requirements in Wiltshire, the CCG is currently undertaking a strategic planning exercise for the whole of the county. This plan will consider the healthcare needs of the Wiltshire population and will provide the CCG with an understanding of the current and future local health service requirements, so that options can be proposed for the way that we deliver locally-based healthcare services in the future. Melksham will be included as part of this review.”
Terry Chivers, in a letter to Melksham News also identified empty houses as a problem in the area. He said, “It’s such a scandal that Wiltshire Council are failing in their duty to force owners of empty homes to bring them back up to standard and bring them back into use.
“All councils have the power under the empty dwelling management order to take over homes that have been empty for six months or more, but it would seem that Wiltshire Council are turning a blind eye to their duty to do so.
“Last May I made Wiltshire Council aware of two homes in Beanacre that have been empty for many years and one in Whitley. But to date nothing seems to have been done.”
Above: Deputy Mayor Jon Hubbard outside the empty lodge homes on Spa Road.