Only three local authority areas in the country have seen a larger annual reduction in long-term empty homes than Bradford, according to figures released today.

The number of homes standing empty on a long-term bases in Bradford has been cut by 785 over a 12-month period, from 4,766 in 2012 to 3,981 in 2013.

Bradford Council said it had worked hard to bring about the reduction, although the authority is still working to reduce the problem further.

Only Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool have seen greater reductions in long-term empty homes.

Despite the progress, Bradford is still in the top 20 local authorities for having high numbers of homes which have been empty for more than six months, with an average of 1.94 per cent of homes falling into that category.

The Telegraph & Argus’ Save Our Green Spaces campaign has been calling for more brownfield building and for empty homes to be brought back into use to reduce the pressure for development of fields.

The Council’s housing spokesman, Councillor Val Slater, said the authority had been working hard to address the issue with a number of ‘carrot and stick’ initiatives to get empty properties back into use.

The authority provides loans, or help accessing loans, for landlords to bring homes into good condition for the rental market, along with support in dealing with the administrative issues.

The window of council tax relief had been cut from six months to one month for empty homes, with additional council tax payments demanded on homes which had been left unoccupied for more than two years.

The most extreme measure open to the Council is to compulsory purchase properties and get them back into use, with those tactics being mainly used for high-profile properties such as listed buildings.

“We are not yet there and it continues to be an issue. It can cause problems for residents and empty homes can lead to anti social behaviour where there are a few in the same area,” Coun Slater said.

One project the Council is working on is the restoration of Clergy House, in conjunction with staff at the Cathedral, with the building planned to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people.

Another success story is Emmfield Villas in Emm Lane, Heaton. Shipley-based brothers Zamir and Shakeel Hussain, who own Castle Residential Properties, bought the property to renovate after the Council got the go-ahead for a compulsory purchase on it.

The figures were compiled by the Empty Homes Agency, a national charity which works towards providing more housing.

They found that in a third of local authority areas, the number of empty homes had increased.