Owners of vacant Clydesdale buildings should face extra charge

Lanark's Royal Oak - redevelopment could follow a change in the law.
Lanark's Royal Oak - redevelopment could follow a change in the law.

An MSP has called for a special extra charge on owners of long-vacant and second homes in Clydesdale.

Similar legislation could soon see the owners of semi-derelict commercial buildings like Lanark’s eyesore Royal Oak Hotel being forced to “sell-up or do-up.”

Graham Simpson, Scottish Conservative and Unionist spokesman for housing and planning, wants South Lanarkshire Council to charge double council tax on empty properties, following the example of other councils across Scotland.

This follows research by the BBC, which revealed that more than 15,000 empty homes were charged double council tax last year in a bid to reduce the number of unoccupied properties in Scotland.

Freedom of Information requests to all 32 Scottish local authorities showed that almost £36 million of additional revenue has been raised in the past four years.

This amounts to about £12m the non-charging councils, including South Lanarkshire, are missing out on.

The MSP commented: “I am calling on South Lanarkshire Council to bring into force a levy on empty properties through the council tax system.

“Under the SNP the total number of long term empty properties and second homes has increased from 52,823 in 2006 to 62,795 in 2017. This highlights that bringing empty properties back into use is of upmost importance.

“The SNP administration in South Lanarkshire must follow the example of councils across Scotland.

“An empty homes levy could bring in revenues which would fund local services whilst enticing owners to bring properties back into use.”

Recently the Lanark Community Development Trust said it was awaiting similar legislation to ‘unblock’ the redevelopment of derelict and semi-derelict commercial properties of which the Royal Burgh has several.

This Scottish Government reform would see property owners compelled to sell neglected buildings to authorised public bodies such as development trusts at a price set by the independent District Valuer.

It is understood that, should the trust or some other body acquire The Royal Oak, it would be demolished and flats built on the site, boosting Lanark’s affordable housing stock.