TEST Valley is one of the best areas in the country for its low number of long term empty houses – according to newly released figures.

The borough had just 110 homes left empty for six months of more, statistics from the BBC's new data unit have revealed.

It means the borough ranked in the bottom 10 across all 361 local authority areas per population.

The area also ranked seventh bottom for the number of empty houses in comparison to its size.

Test Valley Borough Council's cabinet member for housing and environmental health, councillor Phil Bundy, put the area's success on the authority's reliance of the private sector.

He said:"We work closely with private landlords on a range of fronts and endeavour to work in partnership with them to bring empty homes back in to use, where ever possible.

"Our approach includes offering loans to owners on the provision that the house is let to council nominated tenants to help those on the housing needs register looking for accommodation.”

According to the figures, Test Valley also saw a sharp fall in the number of long term empty homes over the past six years.

In 2010, the area had 338 long term empty homes.

But by 2016, the borough had just 110 long term vacant houses – a drop of 67 per cent.

The figure is almost double that of the drop seen across the south Hampshire area, of around 35 per cent since 2010.

However the figures show there were still more than 2,000 long term vacant houses across the area as of 2016.

It comes as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, gave authorities new powers to charge a 100 per cent council tax premium for properties which have been vacant for more than two years.

He made the announcement as part of Autumn budget last week.

Commenting on the announcement, Helen Williams, from the Empty Homes charity, said: "The Chancellor’s announcement of powers for local authorities in England to charge up to a 100 per cent council tax premium on empty homes recognises the importance of taking action, however it is unlikely to be a sufficient enough deterrent for some wealthy investor buyers.

"The announcement also did not address the blight of the high level of empty homes in lower house price neighbourhoods, often linked to the poor standard of housing in those places.

"At the same time, it is worth bearing in mind that many owners of empty homes want to bring them back into use, and this is why advice from local authority empty homes staff can make a difference between a property being stuck empty and it being brought back to the market for rent or sale.”