Double take or double standards?


I had to smile to myself when the image above was sent in to Rye News because I wrote an article published on February 15 about the state of the empty house at 9 Mermaid Street (Mermaid Street, what’s happening?). Taken from a Facebook post the image openly advertises that Rother District Council is backing a national initiative that aims to bring empty properties back into use for housing.

National Empty Homes week which ran from March 4 – 10 not only highlights action being taken to bring empty homes back into use, but promotes their services and support the owners of empty homes.

Cllr Ruairi McCourt, lead member for housing at Rother District Council, said: “We’re very happy to support this important initiative. Housing issues in the UK have made national headlines over recent months, including the massive increase in the cost of providing temporary accommodation, which has hit many councils hard. Here in Rother, our temporary accommodation spending increased from £1.9m in 2019-20 to £2.8m in 2023-24.

“Initiatives like Empty Homes Week not only help to highlight housing issues, but they also support tackling the problem. At Rother, significant work has also been carried out on empty homes with over 70 investigations undertaken from April – December 2023.

“Empty properties can become unsightly, encourage anti-social behaviour such as vandalism and may attract pests and squatters, causing trouble for the surrounding community. If there is a problem empty property near you, the council has powers to require the owner to carry out improvements.

“We are keen to get empty homes back into use, for people waiting for housing in Rother. If you own an empty property, the council can purchase it from you, or let it for you. You can report an empty property or contact us about putting yours back into use using the report button and email address on this page Empty properties – Rother District Council

Having read the Facebook post above I contacted Rye Town Council, Rye Conservation Society and Rother District Council’s enforcement section to see how things were progressing on 9 Mermaid Street. I’m somewhat confused as Rye Town Council and Rye Conservation Society have had no contact from Rother District Council and only after my email to the enforcement section of Rother District Council (on March 11) had the neighbours in the adjoining property heard anything from anyone. They have now been told that things are moving forward but it begs the question: if Rother District Council have the powers to do such an amazing makeover on the property in the Facebook post, why has it taken so long to get anything done on a Grade II listed property in the town’s most visited street?

Spot the difference?
9 Mermaid Street front elevation. Before
Spot the difference?
9 Mermaid Street front elevation. But so far no ‘after’

Image Credits: Facebook , Nick Forman .

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