A ROW has broken out over empty homes in Burnley renovated under a council scheme being sold to private landlords.

The Empty Homes Clusters programme was introduced in 2012 after the council secured £7million in Government funding to bring around 175 empty homes back into use.

The council was keen to sell these newly renovated homes to first-time buyers, but the town’s MP and councillor Gordon Birtwistle said a lot of them were going to landlords instead.

“The Empty Homes Clusters programme was supposed to benefit first-time buyers in Burnley and help them get on the housing ladder,” he said.

“These houses shouldn’t be sold to landlords, this is not the intention of why the scheme was started in the first place.

“I have been approached by a number of young people keen to get on the housing ladder. When they have made approaches about these properties they are being told they have already been sold.

“How is it that these properties are being sold to landlords before they are completed?

“These are affordable homes that should be for young people in this town to get on the housing ladder.”

The cash from the Homes and Communities Agency is aimed at tackling the blight of empty homes in Burnley, with around 2,800 private sector properties unoccupied in the borough.

Coun John Harbour, portfolio holder for housing, said the council had to sell the properties to the highest bidder at the earliest opportunity.

He said: “As a council we want to sell these houses to young people and the opportunity is still there.

“We don’t prefer to sell to landlords instead of young people.

“If young buyers are interested in these properties then the opportunity is there for everybody.”