MORE than 1,300 military properties lie empty in Wiltshire which the council says could be used to house refugees from Afghanistan.

Leader of Wiltshire Council, Richard Clewer believes, based on council tax records, that 1,325 properties owned by the Ministry of Defence are currently vacant.

Swindon Advertiser: Leader of Wiltshire Council, Richard ClewerLeader of Wiltshire Council, Richard Clewer

Cllr Clewer said that the council is not getting any response from the MoD except that there’s “nothing suitable from a Wiltshire point of view” – which he says doesn’t make sense.

“We know there are over 1,300 empty MoD properties,” he said.

“Many have been empty for a long period of time and they’re paying rent on them to Annington.

“So they’re paying to keep the properties empty, and yet there’s a potential use that would not necessarily be long term with refugees but it would get them out of hotels quickly.

“I just do not understand the logic.”

The leader added that he was concerned because that many empty houses was “a significant chunk” of the housing numbers in Wiltshire – closing in on one per cent.

According to Cllr Clewer the council is doing everything it can to find accommodation for refugees who “put their lives at risk” to help British troops stationed in Afghanistan.

“They’ve put their lives at risk through the actions they’ve taken to try and support us in the mission in Afghanistan,” Cllr Clewer continued.

“We’ve had offers of accommodation, which is great and we’ve been talking with at least one housing association about it.

“We’re trying to find accommodation through Stone Circle, our own housing company, but there’s all this MoD accommodation sitting there and yet the response seems to be ‘no’.

“The MoD doesn’t seem to be approaching this logically.”

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An MOD spokesperson said: “As part of the ARAP scheme, we have identified a number of surplus properties that are being leased to local authorities to house Afghan families around the UK.

“We remain committed to supporting those who have supported us, and our commitment to those who are eligible for relocation is not time-limited and will endure.”

The MoD added that around 17,000 family moves are done every year and this means that a certain level of vacant properties are needed.

Annington have been approached for comment.

The council is also asking private landlords who have affordable homes to rent, to get in contact to help house refugees.

 

Currently, the council is in the process of welcoming three families to the county as part of the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which began in April.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced a new resettlement scheme to take in 20,000 refugees with 5,000 in the first year.

The government has set up a national link for those wanting to offer help with support and donations.

Cllr Clewer continued: “We are asking private landlords that have a property which is ready to let to get in touch now so we can have the details to hand if they are needed and add them to the list we are already compiling.

“We are waiting for the government to provide more information, however it will be helpful to know what can be made available.

“Thank you again to everyone who has come forward with offers of help. We have been overwhelmed with the generosity of people in Wiltshire.

“For the moment we are waiting for more information from government and we will be providing further details in due course on how people can provide general support.”