Community Engagement Views on HMOs

In the May/June 2015 Community Engagement conducted by the Neighbourhood Plan Stakeholder Group information on the community views of HMO issues was collected. The initial questions were carefully drafted not to point specifically to student HMOs but to the identification of ‘any areas of Falmouth where the balance of the community or character of the area are at risk of being harmed by changes in accommodation and occupancy type’.

Respondents were asked to score what aspects did they think harm the character of the area? Choices were parking conflict, care and maintenance of buildings, conflicting hours of activity, refuse storage, care and maintenance of gardens and communal areas, and other issues.

Respondents were also asked whether they would support the principle of an Article 4 direction that would control the spread of houses of multiple occupation in Falmouth.

Those replying to the question on whether there are areas affected by HMOs was 696 (53.2%). Of those commenting on which aspects were affected, 91% said that community balance was harmed, and 81% said the character of the area had been harmed.

With regard to the main areas where the problems associated with student HMOs are most experienced, clear ‘hot-spots’ such as Marlborough Road, Trelawney Rd, Budock Terrace, Albany Road, Kiligrew Street, Trevethan Road, Wood Lane, Old Hill, New Street, and Lister Street came through. These correlated well with the known distribution from the January 2015 CC Survey.

Respondents also identified individual streets all across the town, and 25% said the whole town was affected. There would not seem to be any areas which are perceived as being immune to the pressure for subdivision into HMOs. The fact that 826 (63% of all respondents) expressed support the A4D also suggests it’s a fairly widely recognised issue, and that those so far not affected fear that the issue will spread to their areas.

Some 659 respondents (50.4%) answered the question on the issues involved, scoring each (on a Likert scale where 1 is low level of harm and 5 is high level). The result is a weighted average for each issue as follows:

  • Care and maintenance of gardens etc: 4.2
  • Care and maintenance of buildings: 4.1
  • Conflicting hours of activity: 3.9
  • Refuse storage 3.9
  • Parking conflict 3.8

Comments added to these responses add some further detail, referring to the seagull problem from unmanaged refuse areas, damaged or missing curtains which add a sense of dereliction, general littering, and proliferation of letting boards.

Some 1069 (81.7%) respondents answered the question ‘would you support an A4D?’ Of these 77.3% were in favour of the A4D.

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Article 4 Directions & Houses in Multiple Occupation

Use Classes and Permitted Development

Planning law deals with different land and building uses through the system of ‘Use Classes’. Some changes from one ‘Use Class’ to another require planning permission from the local planning authority (i.e. Cornwall Council), whilst others do not. The ones that don’t are called “Permitted Development’ because they automatically get planning permission under the planning law.

An Article 4 Direction is a direction under Article 4 of the General Permitted Development Order under which the local planning authority can withdraw specific ‘Permitted Development’ across a defined area.

Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) are covered by Planning Use Class  ‘C4 Houses in multiple occupation’ – small shared houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals, as their only or main residence, who share basic amenities such as a kitchen or bathroom.

Large HMOs, i.e. occupied by more than 6 residents, don’t fall into a specific use class, and they are called ‘sui generis’ in planning language, which means ‘Of its own kind; in a class by itself; unique’

Change of use from Use Class C3 (i.e. an ordinary dwelling house) to C4 (an HMO) is a ‘Permitted Development’, for which a planning application and formal planning permission is not required. Equally, change from C4 back to C3 is also ‘permitted development’.

If more than 6 occupants are involved, than as a ‘sui generis’ use a planning application and planning permission is always required.

Thus it is possible for property owners to convert an entire property into accommodation for up to 6 individuals without the need for a Planning application and the scrutiny that goes with the planning process.

Using an Article 4 Direction to control HMOs

However, if a Local Planning Authority wishes to bring HMOs under local planning control, to positively manage the location of new HMOs in order to create sustainable, healthy and inclusive communities and to avoid further increases in concentrations in certain streets, it can use an Article 4 Direction, often referred to as an ‘A4D’, to withdraw ‘Permitted Development’ for them. This means that Planning Permission would be required for an HMO regardless of its size.

A4Ds have been used to bring HMOs under local Planning control by Exeter, Brighton and Hove, Leeds, Charnwood (Loughborough Uni), Nottingham, Oxford and Cheshire West and Chester Councils.

Why is the link with the Neighbourhood Plan important?

As Planning Permission will be required for new HMOs, there needs to be Planning criteria against which such planning applications can be assessed. Most councils have adopted policies in their Local Plans specifically focused on HMOs, with some adding Supplementary Planning Guidance, and in one example at Exeter St James, a Neighbourhood Plan has included policy on HMOs.

Its important to note that Planning can only be about ‘Land Use’ issues so can only control issues such as physical impacts on adjoining property (e.g. standards of daylighting, sunlight, outlook or privacy),  highway and traffic impacts, appropriately located on site provision of amenity space, refuse storage and car and bicycle parking, etc. It can’t control matters of personal behaviour, noise, site cleanliness etc, which are controlled through other laws.

The use of A4Ds to control HMOs may have the unintended consequence of reducing the supply of lower cost accommodation for non-students, leading to increased rent levels and housing stress, more rough sleeping, ‘dossing’ or ‘sofa surfing’, squatting, and so on.

Therefore it is important that the specific planning policies riding with an A4D requiring planning permission for HMOs should be carefully balanced, to ensure that whist further HMOs in ‘saturated’ areas may be resisted, they will be permitted in other areas where there is the capacity for more, subject to appropriate planning conditions.

See also: Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) and the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended)
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COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PERIOD EXTENDED TO 22ND MAY

The wide ranging community engagement drive aimed at giving residents, businesses and local groups from Falmouth a real say on how the town should develop up to 2030 has been extended to 22nd May.

Councillor Candy Atherton, who leads the Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan Stakeholder Group for the Town Council, said ‘We have been getting a lot of interest with over 100 people attending our drop-in sessions to talk, and 360 postal questionnaire responses have been received. Our website has had nearly 5,800 hits, with 585 online questionnaire responses since we launched at the end of March. Twitter retweets and mentions have been very extensive as well.

However, delays with our distributors mean that many households still haven’t received their copy of the leaflet and questionnaire, and as the level of interest so far suggests that many more will want to have their say, we are extending the deadline to Friday 22nd May.’

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29th April Drop-in Session News

Thirty people dropped into our session at Falmouth Watersports Centre on Wednesday 29th, and we distributed another 120 questionnaires.

In the conversations with visitors much the same issues as discussed at the previous session were covered, but with more of a focus on the impacts of possible housing growth to the south of the town. There was also greater attention on the docks, marine industry and tourism. Later in the day we were aptly entertained by the sight of MV Boudicca, a Fred Olsen cruise ship, arriving.

thanks to the team at the Watersports Centre, who were excellent hosts for the day.

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Drop-in Session at Falmouth Watersports Centre 29th April

Have you got ideas about the future of Falmouth that could help us draw up the Neighbourhood Plan? Come to our Drop-in Session at the Watersports Centre, The Boat Park, Grove Place on 29th April, 10AM to 7.30pm to find out more, chat with a member of the team, and give us your ideas.

We will have a small exhibition explaining the background to the Plan, details of the Cornwall Local Plan proposals for Falmouth, and the 2009 Community Plan, and other resources available to help.

You will also be able to get help to complete the questionnaire.

See you there!

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9th April Drop In Session News

We held a drop-in session at the Library on 9th April.  285 questionnaires were handed out and 80 people came in for a chat about Falmouth Neighbourhood Plan.

Topics discussed were wide ranging. Several people referred to inadequacies of transportation and bus services, others to housing pressures and the need to maintain a good mix of housing types to preserve the community balance. Town-centre traffic featured several times, as did the view that Falmouth could make more of its waterfront to strengthen its economy and provide leisure opportunities for residents. Many of the visitors thought that a Neighbourhood Plan made and approved by the local community would help the local planning authority to make better decisions on planning applications in the area.

Now we are looking forward to the next drop-in event on 29th April at the Watersports Centre, Grove Place.

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Drop-in Session Wednesday 29th April

Have you got ideas about the future of Falmouth that could help us draw up the Neighbourhood Plan? Come to our Drop-in Session at the Watersports Centre, The Boat Park, Grove Place on 29th April, 10AM to 7.30pm to find out more, chat with a member of the team, and give us your ideas.

We will have a small exhibition explaining the background to the Plan, details of the Cornwall Local Plan proposals for Falmouth, and the 2009 Community Plan, and other resources available to help.

You will also be able to get help to complete the questionnaire.

See you there!

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Project Plan

A good Plan can only come out of a well planned process, that ensures that our arrangements are sound, that our resources are adequate, and that we follow a logical sequence of events.

Therefore we have devised a Project Plan. This includes an overview plan of the various stages, and a regular monitoring report.

Falmouth Stages Mar 2015

FALMOUTH NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN DELIVERY OUTLINE MONITORING REPORT 23rd March 2015

 

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