Councillors were left frustrated when they had no grounds to refuse three applications for student homes in Brighton.
The proposed shared houses – also known as houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) – were in Bevendean and Coldean where concerns have been raised about the loss of family homes.
In parts of Brighton, planners can turn down applications to convert a home into a shared house if more than 10 per cent of the properties within a 50-metre radius are already designated as HMOs.
The restriction, introduced in five council wards by the Greens in 2013, was intended to prevent shared homes saturating an area.
But members of Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee were told on Wednesday (December 5) that only one of the three properties had any other HMOs within 50 metres.
Goldsmid ward Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn said that she felt compelled to speak about her frustration and inability to refuse the applications.
She said: “I do accept that there is very little we can do on these application and that concerns me.
“I’ve had people in my ward complain because there are so many unlicensed HMOs.
“I’ve gone through the registers myself and I was staggered at the number of HMOs in the Moulsecoomb, Bevendean and Coldean areas.
“I can understand local people’s tremendous concerns about this.
“I do think residents think we just wave these things through and we don’t care.
“We do care but it is very difficult for us to do anything about it.”
Moulsecoomb and Bevendean ward councillors Daniel Yates, Mo Marsh and Anne Meadows, all Labour, opposed the applications at 97 Hornby Road and 103 Norwich Drive, in Bevendean.
One person wrote in to object to the Hornby Road plans and four opposed the Norwich Drive application.
Neighbours sent 58 letters objecting to the plans for 10 Selham Close, in Coldean. It was also opposed by Hollingdean and Stanmer Labour councillor Tracey Hill.
Councillor Julie Cattell, who chairs the planning committee, said that councillors wished they could do something more but they did not have the powers to do so.
Cllr Cattell, a Labour member, said: “It is something we have been taking very seriously right from the start of our administration.
“We know what will happen if we refuse this.”
She indicated that the applicants could appeal and expect to win, with costs awarded against the council because legally ‘we do not have any grounds to refuse it on’.
Cllr Cattell said that the council was trying to buy back more former council homes when they come up for sale.
She urged Councillor O’Quinn to report unlicensed HMOS.