More than a year after a consultation ended a licensed landlord scheme for Weymouth town centre has still not started.

Over 500 people took the trouble to comment on the proposals by the end of April last year.

Since then Dorset Council has held meetings with the police, landlords and agents, but there is still no formal plan in place.

The authority says the latest delay has been caused by having to deal with the Covid 19 pandemic, although that only started in late March, almost a year after the consultation had concluded.

Said ward councillor Jon Orrell: “It is frustrating that progress has stalled. Good standards of housing are key to improving the lives of many people. Now the council reorganisation is settled and coronavirus has temporarily abated the Melcombe board is due to resume with a new chairman. I hope to see improvements in the most deprived streets of Dorset.”

A statement from the council said: “Dorset Council set up an Executive Advisory Panel (EAP) in 2019 to consider the question of licensing landlords in Melcombe Regis. It has been proposed as a way of tackling crime and disorder in Melcombe Regis. The EAP to date has received representations from the Weymouth Landlords Association, Dorset Police and the National Landlords Association. It has also considered alternatives such as targeted enforcement of rental properties, improving relationships with landlords and agents and by providing training.”

The panel, which is chaired by Cllr Graham Carr- Jones (Cabinet member for Housing) is set to reconvene “shortly” to recommend a way forward based on its findings.

Dorset had taken advice from housing officers in Salford where several schemes have run successfully over the years.

The aim of the licensed landlord scheme is to ensure a fair deal for those who live in private rented accommodation much of which is in the Melcombe Regis ward which includes Weymouth town centre and Park district.

If the scheme does eventually go ahead more than 900 properties may have to be registered. It could see landlords who have criminal records barred from managing properties with fines for those who break the conditions of their license. It will also open licensed properties up to housing officer inspection.

When the scheme was first discussed it was widely welcomed by local councillors, many who said they had spent years fighting for the rights of tenants – and helping some who had been evicted because they had complained about the conditions they were living in.

Council officers said when launching the scheme that while it would deal with the poor landlords it would also offer help and advice to those who wanted to be fair to their tenants.

Councillors were told that the scheme should also help tackle anti-social behaviour and deprivation.

The council survey and consultation, which ended in April 2019, revealed that 60 percent of people thought that the scheme would positively improve Melcombe Regis, while 23 percent thought it would not. A total of seven per cent did not know and 10 per cent did not have a view.

Under the Selective Licensing Scheme, only landlords who meet a ‘fit and proper person’ test would qualify for a licence. Landlords would also have to make sure that properties are maintained to a decent standard.

The idea was suggested by the Melcombe Regis Board, which was set-up to tackle inequalities. Life expectancy in Melcombe Regis is 10 years lower than other parts of Dorset with poor quality housing cited as a major factor.