THERE are more empty homes in East Lancashire's towns than anywhere else in the country, new figures show.

Across England, Scotland and Wales more than 278,000 homes are vacant, with over 10,000 of them in Lancashire alone.

Collectively the county has more towns with high numbers of empty homes than anywhere else in the UK.

Lancashire’s worst offender is Burnley with 976, or 23 in every 1,000 homes sitting empty for at least six months. This makes the borough the fourth highest on the list of council's with the most empty homes.

Also in the UK's top 10 are Pendle, Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen exceeded only by the city of London, Barrow-in-Furness and Copeland.

But bosses at Burnley council say despite having such a high number of empty homes in the town, they are currently pushing renovations of dilapidated properties.

Just this week it was revealed that they will renovate 80 run-down properties in the borough after breathing life into 84 derelict homes throughout 2018/19.

Despite this, the council will struggle to make a real dent in the numbers until more funding is made available from the government, argued Burnley's Labour Party leader, Councillor Mark Townsend.

He said: “We do have an empty homes programme in Burnley, but without funding from central government it is difficult to make any real progress.

“Ultimately this is a major problem that will not be solved without funding from central government. We received this funding up until about nine years ago and we were able to reduce the number of empty homes from around 4,000 to the number we have today.

“But as soon as they turned off the taps, the council alone has struggled to maintain those numbers at the same rate. All we can really offer is a sticking plaster.

“It is extremely disappointing that many communities have been left abandoned. This is something that won’t change until the government can commit to more funding.”

Back in January the Lancashire Telegraph also revealed that Burnley was home to one of the cheapest streets in the UK.

And while the average property price in Burnley is around £165,923, on Hurtley Street near the town's Victoria Hospital, you can pick up a two-up two-down terrace house for as little as £15,500.

The vacant properties statistics, released by home insurance providers Admiral, also showed that in Blackburn 62 properties worth more than £6,000,000 have lay empty for over 10-years.

All figures combined open data from the government along with freedom of information requests to local councils.

Cllr Phil Riley, who is the executive member for regeneration on Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “It is a real big problem, and the numbers we need to be focusing on are the long-term empties. We are working to reduce the number of empty properties across the borough but it is a time consuming and laborious project.

“Many of the properties we are dealing with are not owned by people living in Blackburn or sometimes even the country for that matter, which makes it very difficult to tackle.

“Over the years we have increased the number of people working in the empty houses team and that is having a manifest improvement. But we are restricted with the number of properties that we can deal with at a time.”

When a council is unable to track-down the owner of a property or an owner is allowing a property to become a 'blight on the neighbourhood', they have the power to use a compulsory purchase order, also known as a CPO.

There are also a number of steps that councils can take to deal with a property that has been left vacant for more than six months, this includes applying for a empty dwelling management order or an enforced sale of property order.

Through the New Homes Bonus scheme introduced in 2011, councils earn the same financial reward for bringing an empty home back into use as for building a new one.

But as Cllr Townsend pointed out, all money made on these properties is ploughed straight make in to the scheme.

He said: "The empty house programme allows the council to purchase homes and get them ready for the market. But by the time they have renovated them and put them up for sale, you're probably only looking at breaking even.

"All of the money made from the sale of a property is ploughed back in, making it a long process. It is a vicious cycle."

Since 2013, councils have been able to charge a 50 per cent premium on the council tax bills of owners of homes empty for two years or more.

A total of 291 out of 326 councils applied an empty homes premium in 2017/18.

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