As demolition work continues on a dangerous building in Dumfries town centre, local MSP Colin Smyth has once again called for more powers for councils to deal with absent landlords.
Work on taking down the Treasure Cave in English Street is currently underway and is expected to take three weeks. This is following an emergency road closure which was put in place in front of the property on 22 April due to concerns about its condition. This week the disruption extended to Shakespeare Street as work moved onto the rear of the building, although English Street has partly re-opened.
Colin Smyth has said it is time to clamp down on absent landlords and give councils the powers to deal with them properly.
Colin Smyth said: “There are examples of such dangerous buildings in just about every town in our region, clearly, absent owners have no interest in the streets or towns their buildings are located so they don’t bother to maintain them to an appropriate level.
“Councils are understandably reluctant to take action except in emergencies because under the current inadequate Scottish Government laws, councils have to pick up the bill and are then forced to go through the courts to try to recoup the costs from the landlord.
“It can take a huge amount of time and taxpayers money, and often in the end the council get left with the building which is worthless.
“The Scottish Government need to get a grip, give councils the proper powers and funding that allow them to seize the assets of absent owners to pay for the upkeep of buildings.
“We also need to look carefully at business rates. If you had an empty house in our region that was left vacant for more than 12 months, you would be hit by double council tax. We need to consider a similar system for empty shops. If a landlord has made no effort to bring an empty shop into use, then they should be hit by double business rates.
“We need a zero tolerance approach to derelict buildings. The situation on English Street is unacceptable and this must the last time we see something like this happen.”