Thaxted flood victims angered by ‘diabolical’ council letter

Dean Stannard with his partner Nicola Moran and their daughter Tegan.

Dean Stannard with his partner Nicola Moran and their daughter Tegan. - Credit: Archant

A family forced from their home by flooding seven months ago have had their misery compounded by a council blunder.

Dean Stannard, his partner Nicola Moran and their three-year-old daughter Tegan, have not been able to live in their house in Weaverhead Close, Thaxted, after the downstairs was destroyed by extreme weather last summer.

Work is yet to begin on repairing the property although, with Nicola expecting another baby, the family is desperate to move back in as soon as possible.

So it came as a shock when Mr Stannard, 43, received a letter from Uttlesford District Council (UDC) asking if he would be willing to rent out his home, which the authority called a “wasted resource for the community”.

The house had been empty for sometime, the council had noted, so allowing it to be rented out would “help increase the housing stock” for the UDC.

In the letter, sent by the council’s empty homes officer, it said: “According to our records the above property, which I believe you own, has been unoccupied for a considerable period of time.

“As you may appreciate, empty properties are a wasted resource for the community and can become targets for vandalism and anti-social behaviour.”

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Mr Stannard described the letter as “diabolical”.

He told the Reporter: “It is just another kick in the teeth. The tax department at the council knows why we are not in our home so we cannot understand why we got this letter. It is a waste of the council’s time and money.”

He called the council several times after receiving the letter, which discussed a scheme where the authority can hand out grants of up to £50,000 to carry out repairs in exchange for a lease agreement.

When he finally got a call back he said the person was very “unsympathetic”.

UDC’s cabinet member for housing, Councillor Julie Redfern, said: “It is our policy to identify properties that have been empty for six months or more and to contact the property owner to enquire what their intentions are and whether we can offer assistance in returning it to occupation.

“Clearly, on this occasion, the letter sent to Mr Stannard was inappropriate as we fully understand the distress caused by having your home flooded and we apologise to him and his family for any offence caused. We will try to minimise the risk of this happening again.

“Housing is such an important issue for this council and bringing empty properties back into use is a vital part of our strategy in helping to meet local housing needs.”