25 July 2016

Government backs council to close two more unauthorised student houses

Two more student houses in Brighton’s Lewes Road area have been ordered to close by a government planning inspector.  There have now been four such cases in the last two months.

Brighton & Hove City Council had initially ordered that terraced family homes at 45 Newmarket Road and 69 Ewhurst Road, should no longer be used to house six students each.  Under special local powers, planning permission is required in five council wards to change family homes into ‘houses in multiple occupation’ or HMOs.

In each case the landlords appealed to the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

Local planning rules say that if more than 10 per cent of properties within 50m of the application site are already HMOs, permission will not be given. At Newmarket Road  the council said over 28 per cent of properties with 50m were HMOs.  The landlord himself put the figure even higher -  at 36 per cent.  At Ewhurst Road the landlord put the figure at 24 per cent, the council calculated 26 per cent.

At Newmarket Road, planning Inspector Diane Fleming concluded council policies on HMOs, designed to preserve the character of residential areas, were sound.   She noted that if the appeal were allowed, only two among 53 houses within 50m would not be next to an HMO.  She said her site visit suggested that changes and harm to the area had already come about because of a poor balance of family homes and HMOs.  She noted litter, flytipping and a number of ‘to let’ boards. 

Residents said number 45’s use as an HMO had caused noise from slamming doors, parties and late-night smoking in the garden. The ruling means the house must cease being used as an HMO by October 5.

At Ewhurst Road, planning inspector Sandra Prail said local residents had complained of noise and disturbance.  She decided the property should not be granted permission and its use as an HMO must cease by January 1 2017.

Planning committee chair Cllr Julie Cattell said:  “With three such appeals fought and won in as many months it’s clear the council is acting on residents’ concerns and that the government’s Planning Inspectorate will support us.  The inspector points out that the rise of HMOs reflects the fact that purpose-built student accommodation has not kept pace with growth in student numbers.  So our twin-track policy is to approve applications for proper student accommodation where sites are suitable, and to take action on family homes being used without consent.”

In April 2013 the council assumed special powers meaning landlords need planning permission to convert homes to HMOs in five council wards.  These are Hanover and Elm Grove; Hollingdean and Stanmer; Moulsecoomb and Bevendean; Queens Park, and St Peter’s and North Laine.

A small HMO is defined as a property let to between three and six unrelated people sharing facilities.  Such premises also need a licence from the council's Private Sector Housing service in 12 council wards.  The council's website has information on HMO planning rules and licensing HMOs.

In May the Inspectorate supported council enforcement action over a student HMO at 21 Upper Wellington Road,  Last month it backed similar council enforcement  at 22 St Mary Magdalene Street.