IT would cost up to £40million to compulsorily purchase all the empty homes in the Sudell area of Darwen, according to borough council leader Kate Hollern.

The revelation came after Sudell councillor Roy Davies called on Blackburn with Darwen Council to carry out more compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) in the ward.

But Coun Hollern said there were 246 empty homes in the ward which, at an average cost of £150,000 to purchase and repair, would require about £37million.

She said: “Even if we had the funding available we would not be able to carry out CPOs without showing just cause such as prolonged social issues affecting the neighbourhood, abandonment, blight and an unwillingness by the owner to do any work to the property even following enforcement by the council.”

Coun Hollern said of the 3,441 homes in the ward, 354 were showing as empty.

However these included 74 at the former Elizabeth House and Ellenshaw Estate that Twin Valley Homes is looking to demolish, four leased by housing firm AAAW Ltd and undergoing refurbishment, five newly-built homes at Woodlands Park, four at the James Street Project for single homeless people, four older people’s homes waiting to be re-let and 17 being dealt with by executors of wills.

Coun Hollern said: “This shows a net empty figure of 246 which is around seven per cent and is only slightly higher than the borough average.

“Some of these empty properties could currently be being prepared for re-let by private landlords.

“Rather than CPOs, we should be looking at bigger penalties for absentee landlords.

“We introduced a scheme last year where we started charging council tax after a house had been empty for six months. We need to be looking at other penalties we can apply to people who abandon properties.”