MORE than 4,000 houses across Hampshire lie empty, with 701 of these in Southampton alone, new figures have revealed.

It comes as a survey found 278,018 homes have sat empty across England, Scotland and Wales for over six months.

Southampton has the second-highest proportion of empty homes in Hampshire, with 7.8 in every 1,000 homes lying empty for at least six months. In the New Forest, the figure is 5.6 in every 1,000 homes.

Southampton came second in the county, with Portsmouth having 939 empty homes.

Across the county, there are 4,138 empty homes, with 438 of these in the New Forest.

The survey was produced by insurance company Admiral, combined with government figures and freedom of information requests to local councils.

The insurance company estimated houses which have been empty for between two and four years in Southampton have a combined value of £21,420,000.

Noel Summerfield, head of home insurance at Admiral, said: “After seeing reports that the number of empty homes in England had increased in recent years, we decided to look at where housing stocks were being mostly underused by analysing and ranking the proportion of long-term vacancies across councils in England, Scotland and Wales.”

Due to a lack of responses, Northern Ireland was omitted from the final sample.

In response, cabinet member for homes and culture Cllr Satvir Kaur said: “It is wrong and unfair to compare Southampton with more rural areas in Hampshire; there is always likely to be more empty homes in busier, more urban areas.

“Compared to its comparators within the region, like Portsmouth, Southampton has a quarter less empty homes.

“With the current housing crisis and shortage in accessible homes, Southampton City Council actively tries to identify empty or derelict homes, and work with private owners to bring their properties back into use; we also use compulsory purchase orders where owners will not comply.

“However, what is needed is better regulation nationally in the sector and more powers given to local authorities so we can do more in getting empty homes (which are desperately needed to home people) back into use.”

The figures follow government data being released in December 2018 show there were 756 long-term empty homes in Southampton last year.

That compared to the previously reported figure of around 550 in 2016, meaning the increase is one of around 35 per cent.

Speaking at the time, chief executive of homelessness charity Society of St James, Trevor Pickup, said he was “surprised” at the figures.