Agenda item

Draft Interim Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) Developer Advice Note


That the Committee endorses the Cabinet’s decision to approve the content of the Draft Interim HMO Developer Advice Note attached to this report, and for it to be published for public consultation at the earliest possible opportunity.


The Cabinet Member for Planning and Public Protection informed Members that following changes to the guidance issued by Welsh Government (WG) developments of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) applications were now required to go to Planning Committee.  There had been a significant increase in this type of property leading to complaints by local residents and Councillors.  Previously properties like this were found in university towns but because of the shortage of housing more were being developed. He outlined what the Developer Advice Note would entail as the current policies were not sufficient to cover this  The Planning Committee had found it difficult when dealing with these types of Planning Applications as there was no specific policy covering HMOs under the Urban Development Plan (UDP).  The policy was being developed for inclusion within the Local Development Plan and this Developer Advice Notice provided guidance in the interim to developers.  The Advice Note required approval prior to being released for consultation and adopted by Cabinet and this Committee had been asked for its comments.


The Chief Officer (Planning Environment and Economy) reported that Planning Strategy Group had been consulted on this and the draft Interim Developer Advice Note was attached to the report as Appendix 1.  Once the Committee endorsed the Cabinet’s decision to approve the content it would then be published for public consultation.   Following the consultation it would be adopted by Cabinet and then an all Member Workshop would be held.


Councillor Joe Johnson sought clarification regarding the definition of HMO and asked if it meant 3 people who were not members of the same family.  The Chief Officer confirmed that was the case.


Councillor Owen Thomas referred to the (UDP) saying previously policies were able to be put in place prior to its adoption and asked if the policy could be formalised in the same way.   In response the Chief Officer said the UDP was different to Local Development Plan (LDP) in that the plan was already adopted.


Councillor Mike Peers confirmed Planning Strategy Group had made comments on this.  The report stated Cabinet received the report on the 9th October but on the agenda for Cabinet it was presented on the 23rd October and sought clarification.  He felt that the Committee should have had sight of the draft document prior to consideration at Cabinet.  He then referred to Outlook and Privacy point 4.12 “The LPA considers that a reasonable outlook comprises a minimum distance of 12 metres” and felt it should be changed to “aim for a minimum distance of 12 metres”.  At 4.15 Councillor Peers suggested that when referring to the basement window minimum distances be included.   He added that the plans and diagrams were clear but advised concerns were raised at Planning Strategy Group regarding fire escapes and he suggested a reference to Building Control was inserted and what was covered by them.


In response the Chief Officer (Planning Environment and Economy) confirmed the date of the Cabinet meeting was the 23rd October.  With regard to seeking the Committee’s views he said the formal consultation had not commenced and that this was not the final document.   With regard to 4.12 he was happy to change this to “aim for a minimum distance of 12 metres”  With regard to Planning Strategy Group’s concerns regarding fire safety he said there were a lot of partners involved in this such as the Fire Service, Environmental Health etc.  At the back of the note a list of contact information and responsibilities could be included and that this could be discussed at the Member workshop.  The Chief Officer agreed to take those points forward.


            Councillor Sean Bibby referred to the terraced streets within his ward saying that this was a real concern to residents and that some HMO’s do not go through planning.  Waste and fly tipping were a big problem as well as parking along narrow streets where one house could have 4 or 5 occupants with residents finding themselves unable to park.  Also there were issues with developers’ bulk buying these properties leaving first time buyers unable to get on the property ladder.  It was unsettling for the communities as these were transient residents not families.  In response the Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Countryside agreed waste problems with HMO’s and flats were an issue.  Funds were being made available by WG to tackle areas such as terraced streets and that once this was finalised she would report back to Committee.  The Chief Officer (Planning Environment and Economy) reassured Members all these issues were part of the Developer Advice Note but unfortunately the Council was unable to control who lived in these properties or their behaviour. 


            Councillor David Evans asked would Retrospective Planning Approval need to be applied for if it was discovered a property was an illegal HMO.  He asked whether residents were encouraged to report any suspicions and suggested an additional appendix be adding providing advice to residents on how to report cases?    In response The Chief Officer agreed this was a fair point and a link to the Enforcement Team could be added for residents who wished to report their concerns.  As regards Retrospective Planning Approval he said this was not always granted in some cases they would progress straight to Enforcement.


            Councillor Paul Shotton was pleased to see Cabinet addressing these concerns and that the Planning Strategy Group had already commented on this.  He added the impact on residents was immense and the number of issues raised in the Connah’s Quay area was a real problem.


            The Cabinet Member (Streetscene and Transportation) referred to Councillor Evans’ comments saying until recently there were no regulations in place and that some of the properties referred to may be historical but now Planning Permission had to be granted.




That the Committee endorses the Cabinet’s decision to approve the content of the Draft Interim HMO Developer Advice Note attached to this report, and for it to be published for public consultation at the earliest possible opportunity.

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