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Wrexham Council accused of being reluctant to approve HMO proposals

Wrexham Council has been accused of being reluctant to allow any more houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) to be created in the county.

It follows the rejection of plans to turn a family home on Salop Road into five bedsits because of the large number of similar properties nearby.

A number of concerns have been raised by both councillors and residents about problems arising from HMOs in recent years, such as an increased demand on parking and rubbish being left piled up on streets.

A planning inspector has also highlighted how they are making the main Mold Road gateway into Wrexham a less attractive place to live.

Planning agent Bob Dewey, who is acting on behalf of the landlord behind the latest proposals, said he acknowledged some of the issues raised.

However, he claimed there was a need for low cost accommodation in the area and criticised the small amount of HMOs being approved by the local authority.

In the appeal documents, he said: “There is a strong feeling that the council does not wish to permit any further HMOs.

“Tragically, the term HMO seems to have become has become a term of condemnation.

“Local people and planning councillors seem to have associated such a use with bad management by owners and anti-social behaviours by the occupiers.

“There is no doubt an element of truth in this concern, but experience appears to suggest that problems mainly arise from properties run by institutional operators and absentee landlords.

“The appellant is a local man anxious to provide a good service to people who require this type of accommodation.

“It is not in his interest to let the property in a manner which would create problems for him or for the locality or his neighbours.”

In refusing the application, the council said the proposed development would result in an over concentration of HMOs within the area.

The authority’s guidelines set out a maximum of ten per cent of bedsits within a 50 metre radius of any given location.

It also said the plans would cause an increase in demand for parking on the street, adding to existing problems.

In response, Mr Dewey said the one parking space outlined would be sufficient as he claimed most people living in the property would not own a car.

The appeal will be decided by an inspector appointed by the Welsh Government at a later date.

By Liam Randall

Source: Wrexham

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“Over concentration of HMOs within the immediate locality” sees plans for former office space refused

Plans to convert “dilapidated” and “eyesore” office space in Wrexham into a HMO have been refused.

The application for Unit C on Maesgwyn Road had been submitted to Wrexham Council in April 2018.

Previously the offices were home to the Wrexham tram depot before being used as a bus depot. In recent years it has been used as a garage and repair shop. However they have since been vacant for a number of years and have been subject to vandalism

Under the plans put forward to Wrexham Council it had been proposed the office space was converted into a six bedroomed House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO).

In the initial application documents, the applicants stated: “We feel this planning application should be looked favourably upon as the intention to provide additional accommodation within the town centre ideally suited to young professional’s seeking work or employment in the area.

“The building is prominent to existing dwellings and is currently in a dilapidated state where vandals have targeted windows and walls within the building.

“At present the building is an eyesore to local residents, by allowing this conversion to take place the building will be revamped and be a secure building ensuring vandalism won’t occur.

“By allowing us to convert the existing offices to provide a HMO we are retaining the existing characteristics of the building, reducing its impact on the current parking arrangements and ensuring parking issues aren’t magnified should the unit be refurbished as an office.”

However a delegated decision made by the council’s head of environment and planning has seen the application refused due to an “increase in the over concentration of HMOs” in the area.

A decision notice published by the head of environment and planning states: “The proposed development would increase the over concentration of HMOs within the immediate locality to the detriment of the social fabric of the area and the amenity of the existing residents.

“Adequate onsite private open space is not provided which would be to the detriment of the future occupiers of the development and to allow the development would be contrary to Policy H4 c) and d) of the adopted Wrexham Unitary Development Plan and Local Planning Guidance Note No. 5 “Houses in Multiple Occupation”.

Source: Wrexham

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HMO plans for former cafe recommended for approval despite local opposition

Plans to convert  into a 12 bedroom HMO could be given the go ahead next week, despite opposition from local community councils.

Members of Wrexham Council’s Planning Committee will debate the plans to convert the restaurant /café on 79 Holt Road into a ‘one person one room’ house multiple occupancy (HMO).

Plans for a change of use of the property were submitted to Wrexham Council in April 2018.

At present the existing property consists of a restaurant / cafe on the ground floor and five flats on the first and second floors.

A layout plan submitted by the applicant at the time shows that the 12 bedrooms would be be based across three storeys – with five bedrooms and a kitchen on the ground floor, four bedrooms on the first floor and three bedrooms and a smaller kitchen on the second floor.

Despite the plans being recommended for approval by the council’s head of environment and planning, the application has received opposition by both the local community council and by the adjoining Caia Park Community Council

Three objections were put forward by the community council, who say that the proposed use will result in a “very dense and over concentrated use of the site” and that the change of use will “increase pressure on the limited nearby off street parking and may result in vehicles reversing onto Borras Road.”

They also add that: “The proposed HMO and its associated use by tenants will result in an increase in noise and
potential to impact and cause nuisance to other nearby residents due to noise, crime and antisocial behaviour impacting on Community Safety.”

Caia Park Community Council also argue that “given the numbers proposed and the potential for resident’s vehicles it is felt that the scale of development is inappropriate.”

However comments submitted by the council’s highways department say that “the site is served by an existing access with adequate visibility in both directions” and that “it is therefore considered that the proposed development would in theory have a reduced demand compared to the existing dwelling/café.”

The application will be discussed by planning committee members on Monday 4th June at 4pm. For those unable to attend the meeting it will be webcast on the Wrexham Council website.

Source: Wrexham

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New guidance to limit ‘over concentration’ and number of HMOs in Wrexham

New planning guidance that could help limit the ‘over concentration’ of HMOs in any one area have been backed by councillors.

Over recent years Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) have become a hugely contentious issue – with an increase in the number of application submitted to Wrexham Council proposing residential and former office / retail space are converted into HMOs.

The issue has been particularly prominent in the six town centre wards – Brynyffynnon, Erddig, Grosvenor, Maesydre, Offa and Smithfield. This has prompted the six town centre councillors to come together with the aim of strengthening planning guidance.

Current ‘Local Planning Guidance Note’ for dealing with HMOs was adopted in February 1993 and revised in June 2004.

However a report presented to Executive Board members last Tuesday, notes that the guidance “currently lacks specific criteria for determining whether there is an over concentration of HMOs in a given area and for the provision of outdoor amenity space”.

In a bid to resolve issues with clusters and over concentration of HMOs, Executive Board members last week unanimously backed plans to adopt new planning guidance.

The new guidance will limit HMOs to 10% within a 50 metre radius of the boundaries of the application site. Where concentration is more than 10%, “planning permission will not normally be granted unless there are relevant material planning considerations to justify doing so”.

It also provides criteria that will be used to discourage the development of clusters of HMOs within individual streets. This would be achieved by “a gap of at least two dwellings or other buildings not in use as a HMO between a proposed HMO and any existing HMO”.

This will enable the planning committee to consider community needs in assessing planning permissions.

At last week’s meeting Lead Member for Planning and Corporate Services, Cllr David Kelly, acknowledged that the previous plan is considered “no longer fit for purpose” due to lack of specific criteria on over concentration of HMOs and provision of outdoor space.

He added: “I know certain members have had longstanding issues with HMOs and the concentration.

“I believe the work done in consultation with town centre members goes a long way to address a lot of the issues.”

The planning guidance relates to applications across the county borough, however it is noted in last week’s meeting report that a series of meetings had been held with town centre councillors as they represent the areas where the “vast majority of existing HMOs are situated and where there is greatest demand for new HMOs”.

Councillor Marc Jones, who represents the Grosvenor ward, has previously described the situation with HMOs as “frustrating” and a “catch 22”.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Jones said: “We want to ensure a mix of housing – owner occupier, private rented, council housing and HMOs.

“The situation in some neighbourhoods and streets is that HMOs are dominating and that can cause problems in terms of transient populations, overcrowding, parking issues, poor amenity space and, in a minority of situations, anti-social behaviour.

“As councillors representing those areas most affected by HMOs, we have pushed officers to strengthen guidelines. We haven’t achieved what we hoped for with this guidance but it is a step in the right direction. We will review and monitor the effectiveness of the new guidance to see whether it does have the intended effect.”

During last week’s meeting Cllr Jones also spoke on behalf of a cross-party support group of the six town centre councillors, who recently met Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths to stress the importance of Welsh Government support for new guidance.

They also highlighted the need for the Planning Inspectorate, nominally under Welsh Government control, to allow local councils to make decisions affecting local communities.

Cllr Jones added: “What we’ve seen in too many cases is that the local planning committee makes a decision, the landlord appeals to the Planning Inspectorate appeals and that is upheld. That’s not local democracy at work and it undermines the whole point of having a planning committee.

“We need to make sure the message will get through to Cardiff that our communities are a very fragile balance and the wrong decisions can have a huge impact on streets and neighbourhoods.

“HMOs have increased because many people don’t have any other option and that’s an indictment of how affordable homes aren’t being built.

“Councils such as Wrexham haven’t built a home for rent for a generation, although that will change later this year as the council starts to build again.

“These will start to replace the 10,000 council houses sold off since 1980 in Wrexham alone.”

Source: Wrexham

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HMO plans for “eyesore” office space in Wrexham

“Dilapidated” and “eyesore” office space in Wrexham could soon be converted into a HMO.

In an application submitted to Wrexham Council it has been proposed that the disused office space at Unit C on Maesgwyn Road is converted into a six bedroomed House Multiple Occupancy.

Previously the offices were home to the Wrexham tram depot before being used as a bus depot. In recent years it has been used as a garage and repair shop. However they have since been vacant for a number of years and have been subject to vandalism.

As a result the applicants state that the aim of the plans is to “ensure this vacant unit can become usable”, with office space located at the front of the building proposed for HMO use.

Documents submitted to Wrexham Council show that the office space on the ground floor would be used for an open plan kitchen, dining and living area, along with a separate kitchenette, bathroom and one bedroom with living area.

A further five bedrooms, two of which would have living areas, two bathrooms and a landing would be located on the first floor.

Further details in the application’s design and access statement adds that the proposed conversion would be “sympathetic to the existing structure”, with the removal / replacement of windows and the creation of a new opening proposed to provide bin storage for the exterior of the building.

The design and access statement concludes: “We feel this planning application should be looked favourably upon as the intention to provide additional accommodation within the town centre ideally suited to young professional’s seeking work or employment in the area.

“The building is prominent to existing dwellings and is currently in a dilapidated state where vandals have targeted windows and walls within the building.

“At present the building is an eyesore to local residents, by allowing this conversion to take place the building will be revamped and be a secure building ensuring vandalism won’t occur.

“By allowing us to convert the existing offices to provide a HMO we are retaining the existing characteristics of the building, reducing its impact on the current parking arrangements and ensuring parking issues aren’t magnified should the unit be refurbished as an office.”

The application will be considered for approval at a later date.

Source: Wrexham

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Plans to turn Wrexham town centre property into House in Multiple Occupation allowed on appeal

PLANS to turn Wrexham town centre property into a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) have been allowed on appeal.

Last year, Wrexham Council planning committee members voted unanimously to reject proposals to convert the property in Albert Street, Smithfield, into a six-bedroom HMO following a site visit.

Members voted unanimously to reject the application based on the concerns over inadequate parking provision.

But  applicant Arran Pritchard has lodged an appeal with the Planning Inspectorate in the hope of overturning the committee’s decision.

Mr Pritchard appealed on the grounds that it had been recommended for permission to be granted for the development.

He said converting the property to a HMO would have no negative effect on parking and added the property is in a sustainable location given proximity to bus routes and easy walking distance to nearby shops and facilities.

Planning Inspectorate officer Clive Sproule agreed, giving the greenlight for the development to go ahead.

Mr Sproule said a report provided by Wrexham Council’s service manager for the environment, Darren Williams, showed the scheme would not be likely to result in greater on-street parking demand.

And evidence provided by Mr Pritchard supported that view.

Mr Sproule said: “Off-street car parking opportunities are limited, which will cause many vehicle drivers and owners who live in these streets to rely on on-street parking.

”While doubts have been raised regarding the basis of the appellant’s evidence, there is no convincing evidence that demonstrates the service manager environment’s assessment and conclusion on the possible impact is likely to be unreliable.

”Consequently, it is not apparent that on-street parking would be likely to increase due to the appeal scheme. In this regard, the council has failed to demonstrate that the appeal proposal would be unacceptably harmful to local living conditions or highway safety.”

He concluded: “The proposal would result in social benefit through the provision of homes for people within a particular sector of the housing market.

”They would be in a location that would provide pedestrian access to the jobs, services and transport opportunities within the centre of Wrexham.

”Occupants of the rooms would contribute to the local economy and it has not been shown that the development would have anything other than a neutral impact on local culture.

”Accordingly, the appeal scheme would be a sustainable form of development and should be allowed.”

Source: The Leader

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Have your say on how council manages houses in multiple occupation in Wrexham

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. gov.uk/english/planning_portal/ and select ‘planning policy’ then ‘draft supplementary planning guidance notes for consultation’.

Source: The Leader