SOME of the worst eyesores on Calderdale’s high streets could soon be getting a makeover.
Shops and other commercial property which have been empty for years are being targeted by the council, with the assistance of a specialist officer who is trying to get to the root of the problem.
To help meet the costs involved, the Government has provided a £52,000 grant.
Surveys have shown there are probably just over 100 empty shops in the district’s main towns, of which a dozen or so blight the immediate area and show no signs of ever being occupied.
The aim is to provide a permanent use for these vacant buildings during the next 18 months.
Calderdale probably has far fewer empty shops than many towns and cities, partly due to the success of the “Totally Locally” campaign, which has made people think about how they can help the local economy by shopping closer to home.
Julian Rawson said it was his job to trace the owners of these long-term empty buildings and to help find ways to restore them.
“There can be many complex reasons why properties fall into disuse and it does not always come down to money or a unwillingness to take action.
“I want to try find a way around the problem by working with the owners,” he said.
Mr Rawson said there could be long queues of potential tenants for retail premises in a good location but owners did not always want the hassle of dealing with them.
He has been helped in his job by the Government’s decision to begin charging business rates on empty commercial property from April, which is expected to give some owners a wake-up call.
The council also has a wide range of powers to force owners to improve empty and derelict property.
“But we want to talk to people and be as helpful as possible to resolve their problems,” said Mr Rawson.
Among the premises being initially targeted are shops in Town Hall Street, Sowerby Bridge and part of Brighouse town centre.
Calderdale Council’s economy and environment spokesman Barry Collins said: “We intend to add some money to broaden this work to include accommodation above shops, such as the ‘streets in the sky’ at Halifax Borough Market.”