Conversion of family home into shared house rejected

editorial image

Plans to turn a family home into a shared house in Brighton have been rejected by councillors.

They feared that neighbours would suffer “loss of amenity” because of potential noise and nuisance.

The owner Rivers Birtwell wanted planning permission to turn the three-bedroom family home in Brentwood Crescent, Hollingdean, into a six-bedroom house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Rivers Birtwell director Oliver Dorman said that the company intended to appeal.

Brighton and Hove City Council planning officials had recommended that councillors should approve the scheme but they voted four to one against it on Wednesday (August 7).

Labour councillor Tracey Hill, who chairs the council’s Planning Committee, left the meeting as she was one of the objectors to the scheme, as did her two fellow councillors for Hollingdean and Stanmer ward.

A former chair of the committee, Conservative councillor Carol Theobald, took over for the duration of the debate.

One of the scheme’s neighbours, Sandra Banks, addressed the Planning Committee at Hove Town Hall.

She asked that conditions be attached if the scheme was approved such as limiting the house to six occupants, limiting the right to build an extension, preventing parking on a shared driveway and for bins to be stored at the back.

Labour councillor Daniel Yates asked about the proposed planning conditions and was told by officials that would not be needed. Any extension would require a fresh planning application.

Councillor Yates was the only committee member to support the plans. He said: “Clearly there are a number of issues and concerns raised by the objectors to this because of the number of representations made.”

But he said that he found it hard to see grounds to disagree with the official recommendation.

Green councillor Martin Osborne, who represents Hollingdean and Stanmer ward, also spoke on behalf of neighbours.

He said: “This has always been a quiet area of families and retired people. Some of the residents who live there built their houses 50 years ago.

“The house was meant to be a three-bedroom family home. Six people is an overdevelopment.”

Mr Dorman asked councillors to engage with his company which specialises in student accommodation.

He said: “This application has been very carefully designed to exceed all licencing rules and meets all of the criteria required by the planning department, providing an excellent standard of accommodation for future occupants and this has been confirmed in the planning officer’s report.

“I passionately believe that house sharers in this city, whether they are young professionals, students or at any other stage of life, deserve the opportunity to live in high-quality, well-managed and reasonably priced accommodation.

“The aim of this application and others that we have made is to meet this need.

“We carry out inductions at all of our properties within the first few weeks of any tenancy with the aim of guiding new tenant towards good relations, encouraging all of our tenants to meet with their neighbours.

“We also engage with all of the neighbours around any properties we own to ensure that they understand how we intend to manage the property and how to contact us if there are any problems.

“This way of managing the property and engaging with the tenants and the neighbours prevents 90 per cent of issues from ever happening and we have very few problems at our houses.”

Green councillor Sue Shanks asked if there could be restrictions placed on future tenants regarding cars, as neighbours had raised concerns about parking.

Mr Dorman said: “I cannot control what tenants do as they have their own rights. I am not in charge of them.”

The Planning Committee was told that there were 32 more properties within a 50-metre radius of the house, with just one recorded as a “lawful HMO”.

This meant that the scheme could not be turned down on the ground that there were too many shared houses nearby.

Neighbours said that five other houses in the area were shared houses but officials said that their investigations indicated that only one might be.

Conservative councillor Dee Simson spoke against the application. She said: ”I personally have great problems with external noise.

“As someone who lives near an HMO, noise comes more from the outside than within.

“I am concerned and will vote against.”

Councillor Theobald backed her colleague and said: “I don’t think it is fair to the neighbour with health problems, especially when it comes to external noise.

“There have also been 26 objections as well as the three councillors objecting.”

Councillor Shanks and fellow Green councillor Siriol Hugh-Jones also voted against the application.

A neighbour has threatened to seek an injunction, according to ODT Solicitors, saying that the company would breach a “restrictive covenant” if it became an “investment” property.

But the company said that it would still be in residential use.