Letter: Hazards in derelict houses

RUBBISH HEAP: A picture taken by The Herald reader Ed Gutsche shows the rubbish on the site of a derelict Villiers Road house
RUBBISH HEAP: A picture taken by The Herald reader Ed Gutsche shows the rubbish on the site of a derelict Villiers Road house

Another  like-minded citizen beat me to the punch (“What’s happening to derelict Walmer houses?”, September 6) as I had also intended to send photos and comments on the properties, with a few other aspects to consider.

Throughout history you have had people who add value by creating and those who destroy by whatever means possible. Over the years I have noticed how one or two greedy property “developers” have slowly changed the feel of Walmer, Villiers Road in particular.

Generally these “developers” purchase beautiful (often historic) properties, allow them to fall apart, have them declared condemned/derelict and then use that as the excuse to tear them down, before building horrible apartment complexes or offices.

None of this is done with consideration to history, neighbours, traffic or the law. It is generally purely for short-term income to last until the cycle repeats itself.

Sadly, over the past few years, this seems to be happening en masse in Villiers Road. Several other red flags are raised:

ý Health and safety – one photo I took clearly shows piles of hazardous waste, in the form of printer cartridges and other electrical equipment, all over one property. Hazardous waste not only has massive potential environmental effects, but there are specific legal methods for its destruction.

In short, these sites break several environmental and health codes;

ý Health and safety – many old Walmer properties have underground water reservoirs. From what I could see, two of these properties have underground reservoirs.

What is of concern is that the covering for these deep underground tanks is broken and it is quite easy for someone to fall into the almost full tanks;

ý Crime – vacant buildings bring not just vagrants but also crime. These sites become the way for criminals to access adjacent properties, or for vagrants to sleep or disturb the peace;

ý Disease – the filth in these properties is disgusting. The potential for rats/feral pigeons to spread disease is massive here.

Behind these properties are other Heugh Road business premises, restaurants, etc. With the onset of summer, if these properties are allowed to stay as filthy, I feel sorry for the restaurant owners and patrons;

ý Morals – what kind of person first willingly does this to properties and second, willfully destroys the character of a suburb and third, willfully destroys the value of their neighbours’ land?

The new DA-led council has a massive opportunity. First, it needs to solve the massive delay regarding property zoning and development.

You cannot run a world class city and have rezoning/development plans waiting for years on end because the committee failed to meet. Second, it is time to get serious with errant property owners.

I know Athol Trollip has only just started settling in, but the longer the sub-committee takes to deal with this, the more people like these developers will destroy value and entrench themselves. I would also hope that the council will get ver y tough with developers and take punitive action in the form of either a fine or to ensure that developers rehabilitate properties back to their original condition.

The irony is that these properties, if rezoned to business, would still have provided a steady, stable income as well as had enhanced value for themselves and their neighbours. One need only look at the lower section of Westbourne Road to see how some owners have done a great job there.

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