New Eltham Conservative councillor Pat Greenwell is continuing to work with local residents on the issue of Hungry Tums and Touchwood Pine in New Eltham Village, which have now been left un-let and un-cared for, for more than 20 years. Despite multiple petitions and approaches from residents, community groups and councillors past and present, the owners - Criterion Estates Ltd - refuse to take action.
In response to the most recent community petition, organised by Rob Sayers - founder of the New Eltham Village SE9 Facebook Group - Greenwich Council has reiterated that it currently has no legal powers to force Criterion Estates to lease the shops. However business rates arrears totally £16,360 are now being pursued and - following Councillor Greenwell's intervention in January - environmental health officers have carried out an inspection. Disappointingly, this visit concluded that the state of the properties does not cross the threshold for legal enforcement.
Speaking on Councillor Greenwell's behalf as she recovers from Covid-19, Councillor Matt Hartley passed on her request for a repeat inspection at Wednesday's Full Council meeting - and asked for Council Officers to be instructed to prepare a briefing on new 'Rent Auction' powers expected in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill as soon the Bill reaches its 3rd Reading in Parliament. Rob Sayers also spoke at the meeting on behalf of petitioners, urging the Council to act.
Councillor Pat Greenwell said: "We really do need to bring these unlet premises back into use - and the New Eltham community's patience is understandably wearing thin. I will continue to press for more to be done on environmental health grounds, and I am pleased that the council has accepted our suggestion of setting an ambition for the Royal Borough of Greenwich to become the first local authority to deploy new 'Rent Auction' powers when they become available. We look forward to officers' briefing on these new powers and I will keep New Eltham residents updated."
Separately, the Council has conducted an audit of town centres and shopping parades across the borough, following a suggestion from Councillor Matt Hartley, confirming that 9.9% of premises are currently vacant (240 out of 2,423 across the borough). Read the figures on page 14 here.