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Posted by: John Brace | 27th September 2013

Planning Committee (Wirral Council) 26th September 2013 APP/13/00866: 151 Victoria Road, New Brighton, CH45 9LB – Change of use of a property from a single residence to a house of multiple occupation to provide 12 bedrooms with communal kitchen, living rooms and bathrooms. Also to include alterations to windows to the front elevation

Continues from Planning Committee (Wirral Council) 26th September 2013 APP/13/00677: Land Adjacent to 16 Lingdale Road, West Kirby, CH48 5DQ – To sever the curtilage and erect 1 no. detached dwelling together with associated works.

Planning Committee (Wirral Council) 26th September 2013 APP/13/00866: 151 Victoria Road, New Brighton, CH45 9LB – Change of use of a property from a single residence to a house of multiple occupation to provide 12 bedrooms with communal kitchen, living rooms and bathrooms. Also to include alterations to windows to the front elevation

                           

The Chair asked Cheryl to introduce the report for item 14. Cheryl said that it was for a change of use from a single dwelling to a house of multiple occupation with a communal kitchen, living rooms and bathrooms. The communal facilities would be on the lower ground floor of the three storey building. Two rooms would have en suite bathroom facilities. She said that the level of communal facilities were the subject of discussions with the Housing Standards Team and that it met an identified need. Subject to the conditions the officers had recommended it for approval.

The Chair asked if the petitioner wished to talk to the Planning Committee? He did and introduced himself as Steven Regan of Flat 2, 149 Victoria Road. He said that the residents had been startled when they had heard of the planning application a month ago as houses of multiple occupation did not have a good reputation in the media. The petition had attracted around fifty signatures including all the residents of the attached house next door to 151 Victoria Road. Several traders on Victoria Road were also opposing the approval of this development.

The petitioners concerns were about noise and disruption from the development, despite assurances of the developer that they would put up good noise insulation. If the development went ahead they would be very diligent in complaining to the HMO licence holder, Wirral Council and the local press if this was a problem.

The petitioner said that Victoria Road was historically the main thoroughfare through New Brighton and they didn’t want to see its regeneration put at risk by a development such as this being approved. The petitioners were also concerned that they were unsure what type of tenants this type of development would attract. In addition to the noise issue, they had parking concerns due to double yellow lines nearby. However their local councillor was looking into whether these double yellow lines were still necessary. He thanked the ward councillors for going on the site visit but expressed disappointment that they didn’t go in and just had just viewed the property from the pavement.

The Chair asked if the applicant wished to talk to the Planning Committee. The agent Jo Liz Jones of Cheshire Planning Solutions Limited said she wished to talk to the Planning Committee on behalf of the applicant. She said that they believed they had complied with the policies, that there was a condition on soundproofing and that they fully appreciated the concerns of the local neighbours who had originally felt it would be some sort of bail hostel.

She also appreciated the concerns over the number of tenants, but pointed out that it was a large property over four floors and too large for an individual residence. Ms Jones referred to the repairs needed to the building and pointed out that the type of tenants wasn’t a planning issue. She said that the applicant already ran several properties like this one and that a lot of people in desperate need of housing couldn’t afford a flat but enjoyed sharing in a communal multi-let way as it was cheaper as all bills were all inclusive.

Ms Jones felt that the type of tenants that would move in (young professionals) wouldn’t have a car and that it was in walking distance of bus and train routes. They had amended the plans for a secure cycle storage and fully appreciated the objections. She said there had been a misunderstanding of the petitioners of the phrase houses in multiple occupation, but that it wouldn’t be a bail hostel. The tenants wouldn’t be criminals but be young professionals who would have to first go through credit checks and ID checks. Prospective tenants would also have to give references. The applicant didn’t want tenants to cause problems.

She said the applicant would not just run the property, but planned to live in it. The property had previously had planning approval for four flats, which she claimed could lead to more people than were proposed with this application. Ms Jones thanked the committee for listening to her.

The Chair asked if a ward councillor wished to talk to the Planning Committee? Cllr Pat Hackett said that although councillors didn’t go into the building on the site visit, that he was shocked by the building’s condition particularly its upper floors which were derelict. In his view a number of the original fears of the petitioners had not been substantiated but a meeting between the developer and the petitioner had eased some of the original fears.

Cllr Hackett said that the building was absolutely huge and a throwback to the glorious days of New Brighton when there had been big bed and breakfasts and hotels. He confirmed that highways officers would look at the road to see if the many yellow lines were still necessary. Cllr Hackett also referred to the condition on sound insulation. He said that the developer had taken the petitioner to Rock Ferry to see a property similar to what was envisaged in New Brighton.

Cllr Brian Kenny said that the agent on behalf of the applicant had said that the property was quality and affordable, but that the local councillor had said he was shocked at the state of the property. He asked officers to comment on these different descriptions of the building was more accurate.

Matthew Davies confirmed that the building needed repair work, but said that the agent was alluding to the applicant’s plan to bring it back to a good state of repair. He said the purpose of the application was to bring it back to a good standard of accommodation.

Cllr Denise Realey said that it lacked amenities as only two bedrooms were en suite, that there were shared bathrooms between ten people and only one kitchen? She said that it could have twenty-four people and had grave concerns about over development.

Cllr Stuart Kelly referred to the report and that officers said they shouldn’t concern their heads with matters covered by legislation or other enforcement bodies. He refreshed their memory about a previous decision about a planning application in Argyle Street, in which the Planning Committee had taken the view that it didn’t have the level of amenities they expected in the twenty-first century.

He was not comparing the Argyle Street “doss house” application to the one they had to decide on as there were differences in layout and there had been a persuasive presentation on behalf of the applicant about the level of management. He referred to former university students, who were used to shared communal areas and facilities, but notwithstanding the presentation he didn’t feel comfortable with this level of shared facilities in the modern age.

He said he wasn’t objecting on grounds of noise and it would be difficult to object on grounds of parking. He had raised an issue about bin storage which was dealt with through another condition, however they were looking at bulk bins as a more appropriate solution as four of each bin took away one of the car parking spaces.

Cllr Brian Kenny said he had sympathy with the people opposed to the plans, however their decision had to be based on planning grounds, not who might live there. He said he couldn’t think of any sound planning reasons to object to it.

Cllr Stuart Kelly said that he had said the same thing about the Argyle Street application, which had been rejected, appealed and the Council’s rejection had been upheld at appeal. The Planning Inspector had agreed there were planning grounds to reject it. Cllr Kelly asked if there was an appropriate ratio of bedrooms to welfare facilities and that he would move rejection on these grounds.

The Chair said that there had been changes to housing benefits and that consideration needed to be given to the need for this type of housing. She pointed out that if anything went wrong then the HMO licence holder would lose their operating licence.

Cllr Christina Muspratt asked why young professionals would need a supervised kitchen? The Chair answered that supervision related to being cleaned, looked after and maintained. The agent confirmed the Chair’s answer.

Cllr Stuart Kelly moved refusal on the grounds that it conflicted with policy HS14 of the Unitary Development Plan. Cllr Denise Realey seconded refusal.

The vote was as follows:

In favour of refusal: Eight councillors
Against refusal: Cllr Wendy Clements, Cllr Eddie Boult, Cllr Joe Walsh, Cllr Brian Kenny and another councillor (5)

The application was therefore refused.

Continues at Planning Committee (Wirral Council) 26th September 2013 APP/13/00748 : Amenity Open Space, Tollemache Road, Birkenhead – Erection of 12 no two bedroom single storey dwellings.

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