Council steps in to ensure abandoned eyesore is turned into high quality new homes

Published: Thursday, 7 March 2024

A formerly abandoned factory in South Wigston has started a new lease of life as a block of 13 high quality apartments known as the Hat & Cap Works after being purchased by Oadby & Wigston Borough Council (OWBC) in 2018.

Photo of the outside of the Hat & Cap Works building in South Wigston

You can learn more about the Hat & Cap Works in this short video

Abandoned for over two decades, the old textiles factory on Canal Street had fallen into disrepair and was having a detrimental effect on the local area, being labelled an ‘eyesore’ by residents.

Following exhaustive failed attempts to find the abandoned factory’s owner, and gaining approval from the Secretary of State, OWBC served a Compulsory Purchase Order to allow it to take control of building before selling it to developers ready to create the new homes.

The Hat & Cap Factory is just one of the empty buildings in the borough that OWBC has brought back into use, something the council is raising awareness of during national Empty Homes Week (4-11 March).

Empty Homes Week is designed to highlight the need to revive empty properties and tackle their negative impacts on communities such as increased anti-social behaviour, environmental harm and reducing the value of neighbouring homes. Crucially, it also helps meet housing demand potentially reducing the need for new-build homes.

OWBC is committed to reducing the amount of long-term vacant properties in the borough, and from 2004 – 2022 managed to reduce the total number by over 50% from 283 to 132.

OWBC Councillor Bill Boulter said: “Empty homes and abandoned properties are a wasted asset which can cause a real blight on their surroundings, and the Hat & Cap Works is an excellent example of how council action can lead to regeneration for not just the building, but also the surrounding area.

“Tackling empty properties not only improves conditions for neighbouring residents, but also provides valuable urban housing stock which is especially important given our borough’s limited space.

“We’ve made great progress in reducing our number of vacant homes, and while our rate is now well below the Leicestershire average it is important that we continue to ensure that we do everything in our power to bring empty properties in the borough up to their full potential.

“While revitalisation is our priority it is also important that we preserve our local history and character and in the case of the Hat & Cap Works, part of the South Wigston Conservation Area, we are pleased to have ensured that the outside has been restored to showcase the original Victorian features.”

There are many interventions which the council can take to persuade owners to bring properties back into use, with a Compulsory Purchase Order being the strongest power available.

Other avenues include offering advice on and encouraging private rentals, placing a council tax premium on empty homes, or issuing an Empty Dwelling Management Order which allows the council the bring the house back up to standard and recover the costs.