‘Saturation point’ Residents hit out at HMO rulings
RESIDENTS have launched a campaign against an avalanche of bedsits in their north Bristol street after a planning inspector delivered a double blow.
Neighbours in Northville Road, Filton, have hit out at the “heartbreaking” rise in conversions of family houses into homes in multiple occupation (HMOs) which they say is destroying the community and forcing people out of the area.
Officially there are six such bedsit properties that have received planning permission in the street, but householders say there are really four times as many, including smaller ones that do not require consent, student lets and those not registered – roughly 16 per cent of homes.
They say the growing number is “overwhelming” the area, ruining its character and putting unacceptable pressure on parking.
It comes after a government inspector overturned two South Gloucestershire Council decisions to reject proposals to convert bungalows at numbers 58 and 64 Northville Road into HMOs for up to eight people.
The Planning Inspectorate’s decision in favour of applicants Andrews Capital, plus costs awarded against the local authority, said there was sufficient on-street parking for both properties.
It said: “I recognise the strength of public opinion and the fact that either end of the road is heavily parked and the impact of this on traffic flow.
“However, in the middle of the road, in proximity of the appeal sites, there is more parking capacity and I consider that the increase in on-street parking would not be likely to have a harmful impact on highway safety.”
The report said there were “no obvious signs of high numbers of HMOs, such as ‘to let’ boards in the vicinity”.
It said: “Even if the neighbours’ figures are accurate then the presence of HMOs has had no palpable effect on this pleasant residential area.
“Overall, it is considered that the provision of either HMO would have no tangibly harmful effect on the balance of the community or the character of the area.”
The inspector added: “There is no policy before me that identifies what is an acceptable limit to maintain a balanced community.”
A public consultation by the council, which ended on Tuesday, aims to introduce better guidance over applications for changes of use to HMOs.
The proposed supplementary planning document would prevent more than 10 per cent in a “locality” and 20 per cent within 100 metres of a property, as well as banning three adjacent bedsit properties and any conversions that would leave family houses “sandwiched” between them.
But until that is adopted as official policy, neighbours are facing a deluge.
A decision on turning number 25 into an HMO is in the hands of the Planning Inspectorate and the conversion of 136 was approved last month, as was 99 Northville Road just weeks after a near-identical application for the building was refused.
Dozens of objections have been lodged to extend number 86 to house more tenants, which is yet to be decided, while permission was granted earlier this month for 2 Third Avenue, just around the corner, to become an HMO for up to 16 people.
A spokesperson for the residents’ group, who has lived in the same house for 60 years, said: “Our main concern is the sheer volume of HMOs in Northville Road, which is ludicrous.
“It seems a waste of time for the public to lodge objections if they are completely ignored.
“Filton is at saturation point. This used to be a lovely family area. Now we are overwhelmed with all these HMOs and student lets. There is no longer any community spirit.
“It is heartbreaking to see how Filton has deteriorated. Filton, as we knew it, is gone forever.”