MORE than 180 residential properties across Warrington have been empty for six years or longer, it can be revealed.

Town Hall bosses have confirmed the figure but it has sparked concerns over vacant sites being targeted by criminals and vandals.

But Warrington Borough Council insists it is taking action on the issue.

A spokesman said: “We work with owners to bring long-term empty properties back into use, supported by a range of enforcement methods.

“We aim to bring back the majority of empty properties into use as quickly as possible so they do not stay empty.

“As of August 2019, there were 181 properties that had been empty for six years or longer in Warrington, which is equivalent to less than 0.02 per cent of the housing stock.

“To support enforcement action there is currently a 100 per cent premium, payable on top of standard council tax rates, for properties that have been unoccupied for two years or more.”

But Manoj Patel, director at Hamlet Homes, wants to see the authority take a different approach.

He labelled empty homes as a ‘wasted resource’ and believes having a vacant site ‘makes little business sense’ to landlords in the private rented sector.

“However, houses can become empty for many reasons from people who have inherited a home, or where previous tenants have left the property in an unfit state for safely onward renting,” he added.

“The reasons are many and complex.

“Empty homes can become a target for vandalism, crime and anti-social behaviour, making it even more difficult to get the property back on the market.

“So, it’s in everyone’s interest to work together to bring these properties back on the rental market.

“Warrington council should engage with owners of empty properties with incentives and support to get their properties back on the rental market, rather than just using the punitive stick of council tax premium and enforcement action for empty homes.”

In February it was revealed, at the time, there were 2,482 empty residential properties across the town, of which 1,438 had been empty for six months or more.