27 July 2017

Council wins two more government judgements on student houses

The government has supported the city council in two more cases in its stand against overdevelopment of student housing in former family homes in Brighton & Hove.

The council has now won at least 11 appeals on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) in just over a year, as it fights to maintain balanced communities within the city.

At 25 Wheatfield Way, government inspector Rory MacLeod dismissed an appeal against the council refusing planning permission in January to increase capacity from four to nine bedrooms.  Mr MacLeod gave as his main reason “the effect an HMO would have on the living conditions of the occupiers of nearby properties, particularly in relation to noise and disturbance.”

Mr MacLeod noted neighbours had already complained about nuisance from the existing property.

At 63 Park Road government inspector Cullum Parker dismissed an appeal against the council refusing in January permission to increase the HMO’s capacity from five to nine bedrooms. Despite having no permission the changes had already been made.  Mr Parker gave his reasons as the fact eight out of nine bedrooms were below minimum national space guidelines of 7.5 square metres. There was no suitable communal living space other than a kitchen and dining room. The inspector concluded the arrangements would “cause material harm to the living conditions of occupants”.

Both properties are owned by the same developer, Rivers Birtwell.

Lead councillor for private rented housing Cllr Tracey Hill said: “The universities bring important cultural benefits and jobs. But that must be balanced against the fact that HMOs can cause problems for the neighbours and that those problems are likely to be worse if HMOs are too large or too concentrated in one area. We also need to be watchful to ensure landlords are not cramming too many people into buildings to maximise financial returns at the expense of the occupants’ welfare.”

Since May 2015 the council has also won HMO appeals against unauthorised use at  21 Upper Wellington Road, 22 St Mary Magdalene Street. 45 Newmarket Road, 69 Ewhurst Road, 19 Riley Road, 64 Upper Lewes Road, 28 Lower Bevendean Avenue , 39 Newmarket Road and 17 Bernard Road..

In April 2013 the council assumed special powers meaning landlords need planning permission to convert houses 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.

In March this year a council report said that since the new rules were introduced, 270 planning investigations have been launched, resulting in 24 enforcement notices, requiring HMOs to stop operating.