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Members of the public are being invited to have their say on how a council manages houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

In recent months Wrexham Council has received a spate of planning applications to turn properties into HMOs.

Some of the more notable applications reported on by the Leader recently include the refusal of a 20 room extension to an existing HMO in Pentre Felin, the conversion of a property in Pen y Bryn into a 10 bedroom HMO, which was approved on appeal, and plans to convert a property in Rhosddu Road into a self-contained apartment and a five-bedroom HMO – which was refused by the council but is now under appeal.

A consultation, which was launched by Wrexham Council at the end of last year and closes on February 19, looks at how the authority handles ‘concentrations’ of HMOs across the county.

A draft version of the ‘local planning guidance note 5: houses in multiple occupation’ made available to view on the council’s website explains how council chiefs intend to assess the proximity of existing HMOs to the site of any proposed new ones.

According to the document HMOs fall into two categories – small (occupied by three to six unrelated people) and large (occupied by seven or more people) and planning permission is required to turn any building into a HMO, as well as to turn a large HMO to a small or vice versa.

The document explains: “Most houses in multiple occupation in the county borough are found in Wrexham town and are predominately located within the wards of Offa, Smithfield, Erddig, Brynyffynnon and Grosvenor.

“Houses in multiple occupation can be of benefit to an area by providing low cost housing solutions for those who may otherwise have difficulty finding a place to live as well as accommodation for students, young professionals and health care workers.

“In fact, the Wrexham Council housing market assessment recognises that there is likely to be a need in the future for smaller units of accommodation in the county borough. HMOs can go some way towards meeting this identified need.

“The housing In multiple occupation review and evidence gathering report published by the Welsh Government in 2015 acknowledged that large concentrations of HMO can result in problems, including damage to social cohesion with higher levels of transient residents and fewer long term households and established families, greater difficulties for owner occupiers and first time buyers because of competition from landlords and a reduction in the number of family homes, increases in noise, crime and anti-social behavior and increase pressure for parking.”

Describing how the placement of HMOs will be assesed in order to avoid over-concentrations in certain areas, it adds: “Planning permission will not normally be granted for a new HMO if, including the property subject to the application, it will result in the number of residential properties in use as a HMOs exceeding 10 per cent (rounded to the nearest
whole number) within a 50 metre radius of the boundaries of the application site.

“The use of a 50 metre radius is considered to be the most appropriate way to assess HMO concentrations because it can be applied consistently to each proposal.

“In addition, to avoid concentrations of HMOs developing within streets, there must be a gap of at least two dwellings or other buildings not in use as a HMO between a proposed HMO and any existing HMOs.”

In terms of other planning requirements, the guidance note states houses in multiple occupation should have a large enough private outdoor area to provide external drying areas, cycle parking and bin storage.

Most HMOs will also need a separate licence from public protection and will be subject to conditions that require landlords to take all reasonable steps to control noise and anti-social behaviour.

To find out more, and to comment, visit www.wrexham. and select ‘planning policy’ then ‘draft supplementary planning guidance notes for consultation’.

Source: The Leader

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