Thank you Mr. President

I would like to start by thanking my colleague Mr. Moorhouse for bringing this Motion before the Court today. 

I think the intention of the motion is right….but I do have some serious concerns around the wording of this particular motion as tabled. 

Firstly, there are some genuine reasons why an individual or business could apply for an exemption of rates in respect of a particular property, which has been left vacant for a significant period of time. 

Delays in obtaining planning permission is just one example, and we only have to look down at the quay to see various examples of developers keen to get vacate, dilapidated or ruinous properties back into circulation, but unable to obtain the necessary planning permission. 

I also have some concerns around how this scheme would be implemented and administrated by the three local authorities that collect their own community rates, along with our Treasury colleagues who collect all other rates, especially enabling rates to be increased at a rate of 20% per annum compounded.      

I think any new scheme being introduced should firstly target long term unoccupied properties, along dilapidated or ruinous properties, which remain a stain on our communities. 

In Scotland, the Government has brought in legislation to provide Local Authorities with discretionary powers to remove the empty property discount or to set a rate increase of 100% on certain properties, which have been empty for 1 year or more. 

The scheme is flexible and is intended as additional tool to help local authorities encourage owners to bring empty properties back into circulation, both to increase the supply of housing for those who need homes here today, and to reduce the blight on communities caused by properties being left empty, and then simply left to fall in disrepair. 

The scheme is easy to follow and to administrate, but I would also allow an extension of more than 1 year in exceptional circumstances, such as planning delays etc. 

The motion today will not solve the problem of dilapidated, ruinous or vacate properties across our island, but it could serve as one solution in a suite of options that eventually gets some of these properties in back into circulation. 

In addition to removing rates any exemption for long term unoccupied, dilapidated or ruinous properties, this Government also needs to give our local authorities the support and the powers to go after  property owners on the island who continue believe it is acceptable to leave vacant, dilapidated and ruinous properties in a poor state for many years. 

Having to living next door to a dilapidated or ruinous property is serious concern for many island residents. It also brings down the value of our communities and they remain an eyesore on our landscape, and I know that many of my own constituents living in Third Avenue, Onchan would agree with that sentiment.  

Some members might point me in the direction of Section 24 of the Building Control Act 1991, which gives local authorities the necessary powers, but unfortunately, this course of action is costly when using ratepayers’ money, and in many cases it is simply not effective. 

They also need additional support when dealing with owners of these vacate, dilapidated or ruinous properties, and on occasion local authorities need the powers to be able to lift any corporate veil, in order to hold these individuals to account. 

That said, I would like take this opportunity to thank the Chairman of the Housing and Communities Board who are now looking to appoint an “Empty Property Officer”, which was one of the original recommendations from the Empty Property Initiative Committee set up back 2001.  

Thank you Mr. President