Where buildings are left in an underused and poor condition, there are some powers available to seek to remedy the situation. It should be noted that these powers carry a financial risk to councils, which is why they are seldom used.
An Urgent Works Notice is served under section 54 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended, and can be served on a vacant (or vacant parts of a) listed building where works are urgently necessary for the preservation of a listed building.
In exceptional circumstance there are special powers available to the Secretary of State to authorise the use of these powers to an unlisted building in a conservation area where the preservation of the building is important for maintaining the character or appearance of the area (section 76 of the above Act). The works that can be implemented include:
- Making the building weather tight.
- Making the building safe from structural collapse.
- Preventing unauthorised entry, vandalism or theft.
The council must serve a notice giving the details of what is required, 7-days before it intends to enter to implement the works. There is no appeal against this Notice.
Upon completion of the works, under section 55 of the above act, Notice may be served on the owner of the building requiring repayment of the costs incurred during the works to the building. The owner does have a period of 28-days to appeal against this Notice however, on the following grounds:
- Some or all of the works were unnecessary.
- Temporary works have continued for an unreasonable length of time.
- The amounts were unreasonable.
- Recovery would cause hardship.