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Government inspector overturns decision to use new legislation to stop expansion of student house in Falmouth

Proposals to change a bungalow into a house of multiple occupation (HMO) in Falmouth that fell foul of new legislation have been allowed on appeal.

Dylan Stephens already houses five people at the house in Dracaena Avenue, but had to apply for planning permission to increase the number to nine.

He said he was only applying “under protest” as he has operated it as an HMO for 14 years, but Cornwall Council turned it down.

Although any HMO for more than five people has always had to seek planning consent, Article 4 legislation, which came into force in June, means schemes can be refused if it is felt the area is at saturation point.

Despite being recommended for approval by planning officer Laura Potts, Cornwall Council’s planning committee used the policy to refuse it saying the area “was identified as containing a large number of HMOs”.

But Mr Stephens appealed both the change of use and a second application to add a loft extension. The first was upheld, but the planning inspector refused the extension because of the impact on neighbours.

Mr Stephens said in his application: “The deeds for the property state it can be used as a residential house or high-quality boarding house. Falmouth has an enormous demand for shared accommodation without the need to take up any more of the much-needed family housing.

“It has housed many local working people who have been unable to afford to live in a self-contained unit.”

The application received objections from residents, who raised concerns about the provision of just four parking spaces and suggesting it would increase noise problems already experienced from the premises.

One objector said: “It has already been enlarged to six bedrooms, that’s a 200% increase. To enlarge it even further to nine bedrooms would be 350%. That is massive over-development and overcrowding of a small site.”

Falmouth Town Council also objected to the application, saying it was over-development and unneighbourly and went against the emerging neighbourhood plan and Article 4 directive.

Planning inspector Chris Cheswell said, however, that as it was already being used as an HMO there was no change and therefore the Article 4 direction did not apply.

He said: “I am aware of the neighbouring occupier’s concerns regarding potential noise and disturbance. Although I do sympathise with these concerns, the property is already in use as HMO and it is not clear that an increase of three additional persons would materially change the existing situation.

“While I am aware of some previous complaints, there is relatively little before me to demonstrate that noise is an ongoing problem. Indeed, I note that the council’s environmental protection officer has no objection to the proposal.”

The property has a two-storey extension at the back and a single-storey extension is currently under construction having previously gained permission, but the inspector dismissed the second appeal for a loft extension because he said it would be overbearing and affect the living conditions of neighbours.

“Although I recognise that the proposal would provide a modest amount of additional accommodation within the town, this is not sufficient to balance in favour of the development.”

Source: Cornwall Live

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Swanky student house does not have planning permission to be an HMO

A luxurious student house with seven double bedrooms and a hot tub does not have planning permission to take student tenants, the Bath Chronicle has discovered.

Fieldgate, a £6,000-a-month property on The Avenue next to the University of Bath, is advertised for students who want to live a life of luxury.

In Bath, landlords who want to change the use of their properties from from family homes to Houses of Multiple Occupation, or HMOs as they are more widely known, require planning permission from Bath and North East Somerset Council and an HMO licence depending on the type of property.

An HMO is a property rented to three or more individuals who are unrelated and share communal areas, such as a bathroom and kitchen.

Landlord Richard Fisher does not need a licence but does need planning permission to change the property’s use, which he has not yet sought.

planning permission
One bedroom comes with a balcony (Image: Upad)

He is not currently breaking council rules by advertising the home to students but would be if any were to move in.

The huge property is unlike a regular HMO – one bedroom comes with a balcony, there is a huge kitchen seating 14 people and a large garden perfect for “playing badminton”.

The advert on Upad.co.uk also specifies no deposit, guarantors, references or agent fees are required.

A spokesman for B&NES Council said that while it does not require an HMO licence, “it would still require planning permission” were students to move in.

You don't see a hot tub in every student house
You don’t see a hot tub in every student house (Image: Upad)

Fieldgate is also advertised on Airbnb for nearly £600 per night and can host up to 14 people.

The post reads: “Events and parties allowed only if you can convince me that you will look after the house and not annoy the neighbours with overly loud noise, especially after 10pm.”

After midnight the hot tub is out of bounds, but “there’s loads of room in the house of continued enjoyment”.

It is perfect for students as it is on the university's doorstep
It is perfect for students as it is on the university’s doorstep (Image: Upad)

“The neighbour opposite has been giving me some horror stories about guests shrieking with laughter, shouting, and even crying on their way to and from the taxi to the house and sometimes remaining outside to talk loudly on their phones, in the early hours and way after the neighbours have gone to bed at 10.30pm,” the post continued.

Richard Fisher, owner of Fieldgate, said the council confirmed the property does not require a HMO licence because it is only two-storeys, but he was unaware that he required planning permission.

“My intention is to not do anything which doesn’t have the right licence or planning consent.

“I run a very good establishment and I make sure everybody staying there is considerate for the neighbours.”

Source: Property Wire