Conversion plans for Brighton family home opposed

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A neighbour is threatening to sue a Brighton developer over plans to convert a family home into a shared house.

The neighbour, whose name has been redacted on the Brighton and Hove City Council website, is threatening to take action against the developer Rivers Birtwell.

According to ODT Solicitors, the company would breach a “restrictive covenant” on 26 Brentwood Crescent, in Hollingdean, if it became an “investment” property.

The firm said that using the land for more than one household would breach the covenant.

Rivers Birtwell has applied to the council for planning permission to turn the three-bedroom family home in Brentwood Crescent into a six-bedroom house in multiple occupation (HMO).

It said: “Small shared houses in this area are almost always occupied by a group of friends who have rented the house together and as such are living together as a group.

“Even where this is not the case, a house of this nature and planning class would still be considered a private dwelling and as such does not breach any covenant.”

ODT said that its client would seek an injunction, if planning permission was granted, to prevent the property being used as a shared house in an area with a growing number of student houses.

The firm said: “Our client contends the houses were erected to be private dwelling houses with garages for the use of families and not as commercial investments.

“This is supported by the restrictive covenant constrained with the ‘deed of release’ and the transfer.

“The residents of the estate consider it to be an area for families to live in and the estate was developed and each house erected to be lived in by one family only.”

The council’s Planning Committee is expected to decide the application next Wednesday (7 August). Officials have recommended that the committee grant permission.

Neighbours have sent 26 letters of objection, raising concerns about the loss of a family home, noise and increased traffic.

A commenter on the council’s website, whose details were redacted, said: “This was a quiet neighbourhood where the residents get on, with many having retired here due to its peace and quiet.

“All have worked hard all their lives to attain their homes and deserve that the status quo is maintained.

“Every new development in Brighton seems to be for students, who obviously should be catered for.

“However, these developments are more than ample, and provide accommodation among like-minded students.

“This is where it should end. Quiet residential areas should not be impinged on by potentially noisy students.”

The area was originally part of a self-build scheme, with some of the original occupants still living in the houses that they built.

One original owner said: “The idea of having more students moving into the area is actually really upsetting.

“We spend a great deal of time in our garden and live very close to number 26. The noise pollution that will come from the house is objectionable and will have a huge impact on our lives.

“We have worked very hard all our lives and just want to continue to enjoy the peace and quiet that the area affords us.”

The area forms part of Hollingdean and Stanmer ward which is subject to “article 4 restrictions” aimed at preventing a saturation of student housing.

Article 4 means that no more than 10 per cent of homes within a 50-metre radius can be converted into HMOs.

One commenter on the council’s website, whose details were redacted, raised neighbours’ concerns that there were a number of unregistered HMOs in the target area.

The three ward councillors – Labour’s Tracey Hill and Theresa Fowler and Green Martin Osborne – have all also objected, raising issues of over-development and parking.

Councillor Hill, who chairs the council’s Planning Committee, was particularly concerned about potential extensions to the building to make it a nine-bedroom shared house.

She said: “This is immensely frustrating for local residents.

“The developer should apply up front for what they want to do with the site and not do it piecemeal.”

As the chair of the Planning Committee, Councillor Hill will leave the meeting after making any representations.

Rivers Birtwell said in its planning application that it had installed soundproof insulation between the party walls with 28 Brentwood Crescent.

The company said: “We understand that these applications are sensitive and we carefully design and manage our shared houses to ensure that they provide an excellent standard of accommodation for the residents as well as minimising any potential impact on neighbouring properties.

“Residents of the city who are unable to afford a property of their own should still have the opportunity to live in a clean and well-managed environment.

“The city is still under-supplied with quality shared houses that meet these needs – and our aim with the improvements to this property is to do exactly that.

“This application was amended to address parking concerns that have been raised and a revised drawing was submitted on Monday 8 July.”

The application is due to be decided at a meeting of the council’s Planning Committee at Hove Town Hall next Wednesday (7 August). The meeting is scheduled to start at 2pm and should be open to the public.