Cotham Vale HMO battle goes to Round 2
The owner of a shared house in Cotham Vale has appealed against Bristol City Council's refusal to grant planning permission for use as an HMO. Submissions must be made by 2 December 2020.
Dozens of residents, supported by community groups, objected to the application in February, pointing out that Cotham Vale already has a large number of Houses in Multiple Occupation. Many objectors said the HMOs were associated with noise disturbance and waste-recycling problems.
A planning officers' report submitted to councillors said: "The property is currently illegally operating as a 4-bedroom HMO and this application was submitted as a response to a planning enforcement investigation."
In his appeal cover letter (see links below), the owner contends that use of the property as an HMO is not illegal because it has been operating as a shared house since 2004. This pre-dates the introduction in 2011 of so-called Article 4 Directions that require planning permission when owners convert family homes into HMOs. In planning terminology, this represents a change from a "C3" use class to "C4".
The appellant states: " ... 24 Cotham Vale has been rented to professional sharers since September 2004 and the Article 4 Direction relates only to a change of use. The C4 use is pre-existing and so the use by sharers is legal."
He says he bought the house in 2015 as an investment and it has continued to be rented out except for a period when it was under renovation. He also says the house is not let to students, which is the case for most other HMOs in the street.
The appellant goes on to state that the council's own enforcement investigation confirmed the house had been in shared use before 2011. "The investigation was closed with the outcome marked on the planning portal as 'no offence occurred'."
He says he was nevertheless urged to submit a planning application to "regularise" the use of the house. He had expected the "no offence" report to be submitted to councillors along with his application, but it was not, and he discovered this only after the application had been refused. He says he is "very unhappy" about the "conduct" of a council officer, whom he names.
The appeal against refusal will be determined by a government-appointed planning inspector, based on written submissions. Public comments must be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by 2 December; submissions can be made by email.
Documents relating to the appeal, including the appellant's cover letter and submissions, can be seen at: https://planningonline.bristol.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=documents&keyVal=QILIU8DN00K00
A copy of the appeal notice issued by Bristol City Council is here:
A copy of the planning officers' report that recommended rejection of the application in February is here: