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Effective action to tackle the eyesores

Significant strides have been made over the past two years in tackling the problem of derelict or dilapidated properties and other streetscene issues spoiling the look of Fenland's towns.

A detailed review carried out in August 2013 identified a total of  121 cases of buildings or sites as needing attention. Most were in the four market towns with a few in prominent positions in the district's villages.

They varied from damaged street furniture and unsightly flyposting to historic listed buildings such as Bank House in March that had been derelict for years.

Three of the eyesores in Wisbech that were among the most serious cases highlighted by the review were 10 South Brink (pictured here after its transformation), the former ATS site in North End and numbers 21/23/25 Hill Street .

About 80 of those issues have now been dealt with or are expected to be fully resolved within the next few months.

The council's main focus has been on working with the owners to get the necessary repairs done. But in three of the worst cases legal enforcement measures have been taken.

Section 215 notices forcing reluctant owners to take action have been served on three sites: Constantine House in Wisbech, the most high-profile case, the former ATS site and a vacant cottage to the rear of the Acre pub in March.

About 80 per cent of the necessary work has been completed on Constantine House, with the council continuing to put pressure on the owner to finish the job.

The ATS site has been successfully resolved and partial compliance has been achieved on the Acre pub site, where the cottage is now on the market.

 Councillor David Oliver, FDC's Cabinet member responsible for heritage, said: "Those three cases show that we are prepared to take legal enforcement measures where they are necessary and appropriate.

"However, the problems we are dealing with are complex and long-standing and there is no easy, quick fix. Many owners, for example, are old and lack resources; in some cases they are hard to trace.

"The key thing is finding the most effective way of getting the job done. We are concentrating on working with owners and negotiating with them. That is paying dividends but it is inevitably a long process."

Elsewhere, special attention is being paid to eight dilapidated buildings that line a key entrance to Chatteris, running along Bridge Street and High Street. Work is in progress at three of those properties and is due to start soon at two others.

Another building in Chatteris that has been prioritised for action is the former Mrs Wool Sweetshop.

Repair work is also well advanced on Bank House in March.

Cllr Oliver said: "The importance we place on tackling this issue is demonstrated by the fact that we have allocated a further £50,000 in Renaissance grants for this year, despite the severe pressure on our finances. That is on top of the £90,000 grants allocated last year, which secured works worth £665,000 across the district."