Brighton man prosecuted for failing to improve neglected Downend house

A Brighton man has been fined £4,800 and ordered to pay £2,200 in costs to the council, along with a victim surcharge, after he was found guilty of failing to comply with a Remedial Order under the anti-social behaviour crime and policing act 2014.

Leighton Dowding, 45, who is now living in Brighton, was prosecuted by South Gloucestershire Council for failing to comply with the notice which is connected to an empty property he owns on Grace Road in Downend. The case was heard at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on 5 June.

The prosecution related to a mid-terraced Downend residential house owned by Dowding that has remained empty for over six years. Since at least 2012 it has been left wholly unmaintained, with its large front and rear gardens becoming extensively and continuously overgrown and untidy. The condition had been causing detriment to the local community.

A Community Protection Notice (CPN) was originally served on Dowding in August 2017 requiring him to clear all the overgrown vegetation, tidy the land and remove accumulated waste, by 30 September 2017. None of the work, aimed to improve the external appearance, was ever started and the condition continued to deteriorate.

Dowding pleaded guilty of failing to comply with the notice at Brighton Magistrates Court on 30th May 2018 and was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £1,600 in costs. A Remedial Order was then issued by the Court which re iterated the content of the CPN and gave a deadline for compliance of 29 July 2018.

The owner still failed to comply with the Order and the only work that was undertaken was the removal of waste. The gardens remained overgrown.

When the case was heard at Bristol Magistrates’ Court in June 2019, Magistrates’ asserted during the hearing that Dowding had ignored what the court had ordered him to do, which they take very seriously.

Dowding was found guilty of failing to comply with the Remedial Order issued by Brighton Magistrates Court (as granted upon conviction for the previous offence of breach of a CPN). He was ordered to pay a total of £7,000 comprising of £4800 in fines and a victim surcharge plus £2,200 in costs awarded to the council.

Cllr Steve Reade, South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Transport and Strategic Environment said: “We are working to bring long term empty properties in our area back in to use to help meet the local housing need.

“Before following this course of action, we had previously written to and contacted the owner several times about their property and repeatedly offered advice and assistance, without any continuing response.

“Where necessary, we will use enforcement powers to bring empty properties back into use which require an owner to maintain the property in reasonable condition if it is adversely affecting the locality. Allowing empty properties to continue to have a detrimental effect on the local neighbourhood will not be tolerated.”

The council took formal action previously in 2014 under planning enforcement legislation (Town & Country Planning Act 1990), where they undertook a site clearance (via Direct Action/ Works in Default) resulting from non-compliance with a section 215 notice (affecting the amenity of an area). Whilst this initially brought some relief to neighbours and locals, the persistent neglect of the gardens continued.

The case had been adjourned from 24 April 2019, in order for the defendant to carry out the works as assured to the court, for the purposes of sentencing for the offence that he had failed to comply with the terms of a Remedial Order (under section 63 of the Magistrates Court Act 1980).

Following this April hearing, Dowding has now carried out the works required, mainly clearing the overgrown gardens and removing dilapidated structures in the rear garden.

Residents who are effected by an empty property that is causing problems are encouraged to report it by contacting our Empty Homes Officer on 01454 865565, emailing: psechousing@southglos.gov.uk or visiting www.southglos.gov.uk/emptyhomes

Empty home owners who are undecided what to do with their property can contact South Gloucestershire Council’s Empty Homes Officer for help and advice (details above).

The West of England empty homes service ‘No Use Empty West’ also has a dedicated website with further information www.no-use-emptywest.co.uk

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