A petition has been launched to get the council to use emergency powers to house Stroud's homeless.

National Stroud Red Shed - self-described as a 'grassroots, non-party political campaigning group for those on the left of politics' - is calling on Stroud District Council to use its cash reserves and legal powers to take management of the district's empty properties.

There are 590 properties in and around Stroud that have been empty for more than six months.

Debbie Hicks is one of the petitioners and has been taking to Stroud's town centre with stalls to collect signatures.

She said: "The council has the power to use low cost, EDMO's (Emergency Dwelling Management Orders) to take control of long term empty dwellings that can be released as housing for our homeless.

"Together with homelessness, absolute poverty and destitution, unsurprisingly, we get more crime and anti-social behaviour that impacts on us all in Stroud."

Last month she put a public question to the council asking whether it had used any EDMOs - a power given to local authorities by the 2004 Housing Act that allows them to bring houses back into use.

"The council has yet to use EDMO powers," it said in response.

"We started a proactive programme in July to encourage and assist the owners of such properties to ensure they become re-occupied without having to resort to costly and time intensive enforcement procedures.

"We offer a loan to the owners of empty dwellings and advise them of other organisations such as Warm & Well who may know of other funding available to improve energy efficiency.

"We have had a good response to date and are hopeful that our intervention will assist in reducing the number of long term empty properties in the district."

Chas Townley, a Labour district councillor who chairs housing, added: 

“Reducing the number of empty dwellings is a corporate priority for the Labour-led council.

"Whilst EDMOs can be an effective tool to help bring empty dwellings back into use they are not a quick fix panacea, especially where a property is in significant disrepair and requires improvement works and other options open to the council may be more effective. 

“I recently met P3 to discuss the support they provide to rough sleepers in the District. P3 identified difficulties either buying or renting suitable accommodation in the local area to enable a comprehensive housing and support package to be provided.

"As a consequence, we will be considering at our December Housing Committee meeting offering them a small number of council homes to help them properly develop their support to this very vulnerable group.”

A council officer added: "The petition is noted and we look forward to meeting Mrs Hicks later this week. Replies to her questions on homelessness sent to the Council were taken as read at the last full council meeting because she was not present to ask them in person.

“Her questions and the council’s answers are on the council website.”

View the petition here: bit.ly/2D4aWrz