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Council loses first planning appeal under new HMO policy

A company seeking to build a 6-bed student HMO in Hampton Lane, at the rear of 85 Whiteladies Road, has won its appeal against Bristol City Council's rejection of the application.

The win for Eastman Estates may be a setback for the council's recently adopted policy to restrict the spread of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation). The decision was announced on January 18 (see link at end of article).

Although the government-appointed planning inspector, Neil Pope, acknowledged the existence of the council's new Supplementary Planning Document on HMOs, he said there was "no cogent evidence before me to demonstrate any harm to the mix and balance of housing/population or to the character or amenity of the local area as a consequence of the existing proportion of HMOs."

The council's submission to the appeal noted that HMOs accounted for 14% of all dwellings within a 100-metre radius of 85 Whiteladies Road, rising to 18% when measured from the centre of the rear plot on which the new HMO will be built. The SPD, adopted in November, sets 10% as a threshold at which a "harmful concentration" of HMOs will be deemed to exist.

Eastman Estates also gained planning approval in January 2018 for a 10-bed student HMO in Hampton Lane that has not yet been built. If the two developments for which it now has approval go ahead, they will join an existing 11-bed student HMO built by a different developer after planning approval was granted in December 2013 and a large block managed by Poshpads Student Homes.

Community groups, residents and local councillors had all opposed the 85 Whiteladies application, citing a surfeit of student accommodation in the area.

In my own submission to the appeal, I noted recent complaints of noise disturbance from residents living nearby. These included a report from a resident in Hampton Park, close to the junction with Hampton Lane and Cotham Hill, who said she'd called Operation Beech eight times in a month to deal with noise from groups on the street and from a nearby HMO occupied by students. (This was not one of the HMOs mentioned above.)

The high proportion of HMOs in Clifton Down ward is only now becoming clear as landlords of smaller HMOs are forced to seek licences as a result of changes in the HMO licensing and planning regimes. Licensed properties can be seen on Bristol's Pinpoint map, a planning tool. Go here for a link and instructions on how to use it:

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