East Lancashire's six district council areas had more than 14,500 empty homes in 2021, new data has revealed.

Figures culled from the UK national census in May that year show the scale of the problem as the housing crisis deepened, with many people - especially the young - unable to afford a home of their own.

Across Blackburn with Darwen, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale there were 14,520 out of 243,255 homes standing empty, six per cent of the total.

In the worst areas, more than one in 10 houses stood empty; hundreds of houses standing empty which could be home to young people or families.

Town hall officials have been busy trying to get more of the properties occupied in the last three years to ease demand for housing.

Lancashire Telegraph: Empty homes can be a blight on neighbourhoodsEmpty homes can be a blight on neighbourhoods

Empty houses can also be an eyesore for neighbours and attract anti-social behaviour, blighting communities.

The 2021 Census figures show that in Blackburn with Darwen there were 62,230 homes in 2021, 3,505 of which are standing empty – 5.6 per cent.

The worst area covered the Witton, Mill Hill and Hollin Bank Middle Super Output Area, where 8.9 per cent of homes were empty (460 of 5,160).

Middle Super Output Areas are areas used for data publication, covering areas with a population of roughly 7,500 people.

Lancashire Telegraph: In some areas 10 per cent of houses are emptyIn some areas 10 per cent of houses are empty

In Burnley, there were 41,950 homes, 2,080 of which are empty – five per cent.

The worst area was Bank Hall and Fulledge, at 7.5 per cent (230 of 3,065 homes).

In Hyndburn out of 37,200 homes, 2,420 were empty – 6.5 per cent of the total.

The worst area was Accrington West, at 9.7 per cent (465 of 4,785 homes).

In Pendle borough there were 41,025 homes of which 2,970 were empty – 7.2 per cent.

The worst area was Nelson East, with 10.3 per cent of homes empty (450 of 4,390).

In the Ribble Valley, 1,785 of 28,535 homes were empty – 6.3 per cent.

The worst affected area was Waddington, Gisburn and Slaidburn with 11.4 per cent (395 of 3,455) of homes empty in this area, where 1.3 per cent of properties were holiday homes.

The 2021 Census statistics also showed Rossendale borough had 32,315 homes, 1,760 of which were empty – 5.5 per cent.

Lancashire Telegraph: Empty homes such as this blight communitiesEmpty homes such as this blight communities

The worst area was Haslingden, where 7.2 per cent of homes were empty (330 of 4,600).

Cllr Quesir Mahmood, Blackburn with Darwen Council's growth boss, said: “The council has a team of empty properties officers who contact and negotiate with owners of long term empty homes to enable them to bring their properties back into occupation.

"We are working hard to make sure as many homes as possible can be brought back into use.

“In a small number of cases where negotiations fail, the council has powers to use enforcement action to ensure such homes are refurbished and re-occupied.

"We also have the empty property council tax premium which is to deter long term empty properties and encourage them to be brought back into use.

Lancashire Telegraph: Cllr Quesir Mahmood said council officers work to identify empty homesCllr Quesir Mahmood said council officers work to identify empty homes

“Anyone wishing to report a problem empty property in their neighbourhood can do so by contacting the Empty Properties Team on 01254 585213 or by email to emptyproperties@blackburn.gov.uk”

Hyndburn Council's housing boss, Cllr Kath Pratt, said: "Latest figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities from 2022 show that Hyndburn had 1,236 empty homes in 2022 this a significant reduction from 2,303 reported in 2004.

"Our housing standards team plays an active role in bringing properties back into use and we carry out enforcement action were appropriate.

"In 2022/23 the team dealt with 171 cases relating to empty properties, brought six prosecutions against property owners and one enforced sale of a long term empty dwelling.

"The cabinet will consider a new empty properties policy later this month.”

A Burnley Council spokesperson said: "We have made considerable progress in reducing the number of empty properties in our borough.

"The total number of empty properties was 3,232 in 2009. Last year it was 1,731.

"In terms of long-term empty properties, those that have been empty for six months or more, again, we've seen numbers almost halved, from 1,139 in 2017 to 678 last year.

"We're committed to continue our hard work to reduce the number of empty properties and bring them back into use."

Pendle Council's director of Place Phillip Spurr said the authority had made tackling empty properties a priority, particularly those which have been empty for six months or more.

He revealed as of January 8 the total number of empty properties in the borough was 1,336.

Of these, 634 had been unoccupied for more than six months, which includes 228 properties in Nelson as a whole.

Mr Spurr said: “It’s important that we create a borough which provides a good quality of life for residents.

“Empty properties can be an eyesore and have a negative impact on neighbourhoods.

“We’ll continue to work with property owners and landlords to take action on empty homes and have a range of tools available to us.

“This includes enforcement action to make sure properties are improved and brought back into use as soon as possible.

“We can also use Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO) to buy houses which become very run down.”

In the last six months Pendle Borough Council has acquired a house in Norfolk Street, Nelson, using a CPO, and demolished a house in Elizabeth Street, Nelson following a CPO.

A Rossendale Council spokeserson added: "Whilst there are many reasons for properties remaining empty, there are some common themes that go someway to explaining it.

"Properties can often get caught in probate when there is no clear owner.

"They get left in a poor state of repair and very quickly deteriorate and are then not desirable if they ever get put on the open market.

"Local authorities have little power and resource to tackle long term empties and the authority does not have a duty to tackle them unless there is an effect on neighbouring properties.

"Where external funding allows, the authority will consider purchasing and refurbishing long term empty properties."

Nicola Hopkins, Ribble Valley Borough Council’s director of economic development and planning, said: “We are unable to verify the figures, as they do not reflect the figures contained in our council tax base calculation and are based on old census data.

“While we offer grants to landlords aimed at bringing empty properties back into use, we are not aware of a significant issue with empty properties in Ribble Valley.”

Many councils in England are calling for more powers to tackle empty homes.