Plans to convert a property into Rhosddu into a HMO have been rejected by councillors.
The application to convert the property at 36 Rhosddu Road into a one bedroom self-contained flat and a five bedroom HMO (House Multiple Occupation) was submitted to Wrexham Council in September 2017.
The property is described in the application’s design and access statement as a three storey, Victorian mid-terrace dwelling that has been vacant for sometime and lies in a state of disrepair.
At present the building consists of a living room, dining room and a former kitchen and shower room at basement level. Two bedrooms and a further kitchen area are on the ground floor entrance level and a further three bedrooms and bathroom at the first level.
However the plans put forward proposed a remodelling of the building, along with converting the basement into a one bedroom apartment and the first and ground floors into a five bedroom HMO.
The proposals had been recommended for approval, with planning officer David Williams stating the committee would need to evaluate if “one additional HMO in that building would adversely affect the character” of that area.
In terms of approving the application, councillors told that the key consideration related to the concentration of HMOs in a 50m radius and if it goes over a 10% threshold. In this case there is already in excess of 14% of HMO properties and if the application was approved it would take the percentage to 17%.
Mr Williams said: “We need to look at the circumstances relating to that site, there is already a concentrated cluster.
“It is an area of mixed-use, it is not primarily residential and I think if you were looking to refuse, you need to be asking how one additional HMO would alter the character of that area given it would be sandwiched either side by an existing HMO.
“We have obtained information with the Council Tax records and it appears the property has been unoccupied since 2011, so it provides and opportunity to bring a beneficial use back into the building.
“I appreciate we are still working on new guidance for HMOs, so I don’t think it is something we can use at this point to justify the determination of this applications.
“We have tended to use the 10% figure in the past, in this case would accept it goes beyond the 10% limit. Again we need to look at the individual circumstances on the site and as an individual case.”
He added: “I think you need to ask yourself how one additional HMO in that building would adversely affect the character of the area.”
However Grovsenor Cllr Marc Jones described the situation with HMOs as “frustrating” and a “catch 22”, with the committee told previously that they could not refuse an application on the basis of not hitting the 10% threshold. However in this instance councillors were being told that “one more won’t make a difference”.
Cllr Jones said: “I want to give a background on the location. It is important people understand it is a very built area, it is mixed and I would challenge the view that it is not primarily residential.
“This block of five terrace houses directly overlooks Rhosddu Park and is adjacent to the cemetery. We have had a PSPO (Public Space Protection Area) to prevent people engaging in antisocial behaviour in place for a couple of years, with limited success, but that is as a result of concerns people have had about antisocial behaviour in this area.
“There have been public meetings and has been significant concerns in terms of police activity and because of that I am struggling really to understand the logic behind this.
“Given the concerns that have been reflected locally, I think Planning Policy H4 is clear and worth reading in its entirety and the last clause – the sub division of dwellings will only be permitted when a proposal would not result in the over concentration of HMOs to the detriment of crime levels, social fabric of the area and amenity of existing residents.
“That is fairly concise and clear cut. I don’t think we need to look any further.”
He added: “The idea that one more doesn’t make a difference, it does – one more makes huge difference. We have to be careful in ways we deal with the individual planning applications, there is a bigger picture we have to address.
“I am here to represent the concerns of residents in Rhosddu. I think there is a danger that we could set a dangerous precedent that landlords who have long-term empty dwellings feel they can get away with anything if they leave a dwelling empty long enough. It is a dangerous precedent to set.
“On the basis of Policy H4 I recommend refusal. It goes against our policy and think there is a very clear case.”
The recommendation for refusal was seconded by Cllr Paul Pemberton, who said he agreed that there are too many HMOs in such a small area.
Cllr I David Bithell, who represents the neighbouring Stansty ward, added: “There are too many HMOs and too much antisocial behaviour. Police are supporting us to try and reduce it and I think we need to make a stand.
“I am disappointed with the planning officer for recommending approval. I thought he would be supporting us on refusal.”
Members of the committee voted unanimously for refusing the application.