Plans to employ a new officer to tackle empty homes in Shropshire have been given the seal of approval.

The county currently has more than 1,300 empty homes and Shropshire Council will now spend £36,000 to pay for an officer to deal with the issue.

Karen Collier, regulatory services manager at the council, told the communities overview committee, that homes were left empty for all sorts of reasons.

She said: “It’s somebody’s human right to have property and by law they do not have to live in it. It can be left empty.

“It can also happen for many reasons – the home could belong to a deceased relative and it is left empty as part of the grieving process.

“There are all sorts of reasons. But we can act where the property is not safe and secure.

“We can either try and track down the owners and ask them to secure it, or we can take action to make it secure ourselves.”

She said the county has 1,329 empty homes that are a “significant wasted resource”.

She added: “Returning empty homes back to use can have a positive impact on the local community, providing much-needed homes and improving the street scene and reducing anti-social behaviour.

“There is limited resource allocated to the empty homes function – 0.9 FTE, which also carries out other private rented sector housing functions.

“There is an opportunity to increase the staffing resource using existing capital funding for empty homes”

“Capital funding was previously used for incentive grants to encourage the return to use of empty properties. Across Shropshire this returned 19 empty properties to use and created 16 new dwellings.

“The ongoing funding ceased and, therefore, the service has prioritised the remaining capital funding to support escalated enforcement action as a longer-term sustainable option.

“It aims to do this through the appointment of a temporary officer and the funding of specialist legal advice, if this is recommended by legal services.

“A two-year temporary contract for a band-11 professional officer would be £71,868 plus on-costs.”

The 10-member committee supported her department’s proposal to appoint such an officer.

Local authorities can reduce the number of empty homes through compulsory purchase orders, empty dwelling management orders and the enforced sales procedure.