Hitchin neighbours reveal 30-year battle with vermin, crime and dilapidation
PUBLISHED: 09:01 07 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:01 07 May 2020
A number of residents on a busy Hitchin street have revealed their long battle with one absent homeowner, who they say has allowed vermin, crime and dilapidation onto the street.
Concerned neighbours on Hitchin’s Upper Tilehouse Street say they have been raising their concerns about the property at number 62 since the 1980s.
Mimmo Maniscalco, who lives at number 61, and Sameena Rehman from 63, have recently submitted a joint formal complaint to North Hertfordshire District Council’s environmental health team.
The pair say their biggest concerns are the potential damage the dilapidated property could do to surrounding properties, the crime the house has attracted and the rat infestation that has plagued the street for years.
NHDC have received six complaints about the vacant property at number 62 since 2014, with the landlord suggesting he would submit a planning application in 2019. To date, the Comet understands no formal applications have been submitted.
Cllr Gary Grindal, NHDC member for Environmental Health, said: “The responsibility for the maintenance, upkeep and the visual appearance for this property remains with the owner, and we continue to discuss a way forward with him to seek a long-term solution to these problems and will keep in contact with any complainants to inform them of any progress in the future.”
Mimmo, whose house is attached to the derelict property, says he has suffered a number of mental health issues after having to deal with these issues for more than three decades.
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He said: “I currently have a dead rat living above my kitchen ceiling, which has created a bluebottle fly issue. I’m financially responsible for all of this and have been paying to fix these problems for 36 years.
“This proves that the vermin issue, which has been raised on many occasions, has not been resolved.
“The main issue here is the council is not following up with the owner to check that they have repaired, actioned or made good on any of the complaints.
“We are at a stage where the property needs to be compulsory purchased, the vermin alone are a nuisance and the disrepair of the property is certainly dangerous.
“The owner either can’t fund or doesn’t care about the issues, and for as long as the council don’t hold them to account, vermin will persist and the property will become more of a danger.”
A compulsory purchase order, granted under Section 226(1)(b) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, can be used to take over a vacant property if the owner of the property fails to engage with the council.
Sameena added: “It seems previous council employees ticked a box after each complaint and contact with the owner, and then the property was put to the bottom of the pile.
“Compulsory purchase is the only option left and the council will have to action this. The property is in a dire state and dangerous!
“In 20 years, the council have had no power to get the owner to do anything so surely this is the only step left?”
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