Plane to soar over Slough in latest ‘beds in sheds’ crackdown

From the Slough Observer:

A PLANE kitted out with state-of-the-art aerial imaging cameras will soar over Slough in the latest crackdown on ‘beds in sheds’.

Slough Borough Council is set to become the UK’s first local authority to use thermal imaging to clamp down on people living illegally in outbuildings.

The plane will fly over Slough to produce a thermal map of the borough, which officers hope will lead them to properties being used illegally.

Ray Haslam, head of environmental services and resilience for Slough Borough Council, said: “Aerial photography is one of a range of tactics we’re using to crack down on this problem and we hope evidence of heat in outbuildings will help us build a true picture of how many sheds are being lived in and where they are.”

Officers estimate there are between 700 to 3,000 ‘beds in sheds’ in Slough, with occupants mostly single adults or childless couples with low incomes.

They will use the thermal map to highlight lived-in outbuildings and then check whether the landlords have valid Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) – required by law.

Mr Haslam added: “If they don’t, we will be speaking to landlords and offering some advice and guidance, and enforcing the law if we need to.

“One option is to repeatedly fine a landlord for not having an EPC. The fine is £200 a day, making it very expensive for people to continue using the outbuilding.”

The initiative is funded from a £220,000 government grant awarded to the council in August last year to improve conditions in houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs) and reduce the number of ‘beds in sheds’.

Councillor James Swindlehurst, deputy leader and commissioner for neighbourhoods and renewal, said: “The people living in them generate waste, they use council services and they have a cost to the council that isn’t being paid for by taxation. It causes pressure on parking and driveways and we get neighbourhood complaints about densely built gardens.”

The sheds can be knocked down – although officers say it is a costly and lengthy process – returned to their legal use or can be granted planning permission to be used as a home – meaning landlords would have to pay council tax and meet energy and fire legislation.

Cllr Swindlehurst added: “Some of these buildings are perfectly habitable but others are not compliant and we will take action to amend their use or have them removed.”

Geographic imaging company Bluesky International will fly over the borough to collect the data ‘as soon as the conditions are right’.

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