THE introduction of tougher measures to force owners of empty properties in Wrexham to bring them back into use was long overdue, community leaders have said.

It follows Wrexham Council’s executive board agreeing to give officers enhanced enforcement powers in cases where landlords refuse to work with them.

Ahead of a meeting held yesterday, (DEL TUESDAY 9 JULY) council leader Mark Pritchard admitted there was previously no firm deterrent in place in the county.

Several opposition councillors told the ruling administration they welcomed the measures, such as compulsory purchases orders, being brought in.

However, they also complained that it had taken so long with a large number of buildings lying derelict for extensive periods.

Labour’s Brian Cameron, who represents the Whitegate area of Caia Park, highlighted a property in his ward which had fallen into disrepair.

He said: “I’m fully in support of this proposal and you could say it’s long overdue.

“I first got involved in a property in my ward shortly after I was elected in 2012.

“To say it was a disgrace is an understatement and I had meetings at the property with both officers and the lead member for housing.

“The problem from the word go has been the lack of engagement.

“For me, the most important people in all this are the residents who live either side and in this particular area.”

Executive board members supported allowing a scoring method to be created to prioritise empty properties which are in urgent need of improvement.

An in-house enforcement group is also set be established to decide the appropriate course of action against landlords who don’t work with the authority.

In response to the concerns raised, Cllr Pritchard pledged that the issues would be addressed robustly.

He added that the Welsh Government had provided money to enable enforcement to take place.

He said: “I do understand the frustration as most of us have got empty properties and it’s not nice – they’re a blight on our community.

“The Welsh Government are actively involved now and have contacted all local authorities.

“To be fair the amount of money is £1.28m so it wasn’t just about us doing our job, it was about having money to go through the process.

“The money’s there waiting to be spent and I think we can achieve bringing lots of homes back into use.

“The frankness of it is now that if they don’t work with us, they’ll end up in court and we’ll go through the compulsory purchase order process.”