NEWS that the council could take tougher action over the derelict house in Charlton Road house has been welcomed by residents – although a degree of scepticism remains.

Last week, the borough council confirmed it was 'working hard' with the owner of a derelict Charlton Road home to secure a sale, but is prepared to make a compulsory purchase order (CPO) if necessary.

This would legally allow the authority to obtain the property without the need for the owner’s consent.

However, one neighbour says she will ‘believe it when she sees it’, while former councillor Andy Fitchet remains unsure that there is sufficient ‘political willpower’ to remedy the situation for good.

Andy, who is vice chair of North West Hampshire Labour, previously served as a town councillor for Harroway ward, within which the Charlton Road house sits.

He had written to the borough council regarding the house, and it was his letter that prompted the authority’s response last week. He has since told the Advertiser that while he welcomes the latest development, it’s a move that should have been made before now.

“I think overall it was fairly positive that the council are willing to take the steps that are necessary to remedy this issue, they’re just about 20 years too late,” he said.

“The neighbours have been asking the council to do something about this for years and it’s only now they are even considering doing a CPO – which is good, I’m glad the council are looking into that. But having been told last April it had all been fixed and now a year later it still hasn’t… Until we see action, I am not convinced that there’s political willpower to actually get this done.”

Kate Mapplebeck, a neighbour who last year started a petition calling for tougher action from the council, agrees that the council’s move is a positive one – however she remains not entirely convinced.

“It is good news,” she told the Advertiser, “but ‘prepared’ and actually ‘doing’ are two different things. It is long overdue a CPO already and has been eight long years of causing problems for neighbours – and the ones past also for many years longer.

“I will believe that’s what they are ‘prepared’ to do when they have done it.”

Kate says that she and other neighbours have largely been kept in the dark over developments, but all the while have been spending more and more money dealing with issues posed by the derelict property.

And although the council is under no obligation to offer Kate, and other residents, compensation, Andy says that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.

“They are not under obligation, but they could [compensate],” he added. “This has been an issue for the neighbours with damp issues and the overgrowth and having to cut it back all the time, so the council could take responsibility and say, ‘yes, we’ve been slow and here is an offer of compensation.’”

He continued: “Personally, I think they should offer something because for 20 years now, probably longer, this house has been like it is. And so for 20 years the neighbours have had to put up with having a derelict property next door, which has been a hotspot for anti-social behaviour and all the other issues such as the damp in the bedrooms.

"The guidance says that the local authority can offer compensation and if the council had dealt with the issue over the last 20 years it wouldn’t be in this state.”