Chaper 5 – Topic Policies
Section A – Housing
Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are properties which are occupied by unrelated households that share one or more facilities such as a bathroom or kitchen. HMOs are an example where a high degree of sharing facilities is typical, where living arrangements, being more intense than single family occupation.
Planning permission is generally not required for a change of use from a dwelling house (Use Class C3) to a Small HMO (Use Class C4), as it is permitted under the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO). Large houses in multiple occupation (those with more than 6 people sharing) are unclassified by the Use Classes Order, and planning permission is required for a change use of from a C3 or C4 to a large house in multiple occupation.
The Council subsequently approved an Article 4 direction so that planning permission would still be required for a change of use from C3 to C4 in specific wards in Ashford (including Beaver Ward).
The problems associated with high concentrations of HMOs have been recognised nationally, by residents and organisations, the press and by the government. The study ‘Evidence Gathering-Housing in Multiple Occupation And Possible Planning Responses’ carried out by Ecotec for the government in 2008 summarise the impacts as including:
- antisocial behaviour, noise and nuisance
- imbalance and unsustainable communities
- negative impacts on physical environment and streetscape
- pressures upon parking provision
- increased crime
- growth in private rented sector at expense of owner-occupier
- pressure upon local community facilities, and
- restructuring of retail, commercial services and recreational facilities to suit the lifestyles of the predominant population.
In Ashford, the principal impacts have been from noise and disturbance, impact on the environment from neglected gardens, litter, overflowing bins, and pressure on parking due to more people living in an HMO than would generally live in the same size house. The principal areas of concern in Ashford, and where the Article 4 direction has been put in place are:
- South Ashford where there has been a concentration of conversion to HMO of three storey properties in Beaver Ward. Some also have the ground floor garage converted into a separate flat. This has resulted in issues of noise, antisocial behaviour and parking pressures.
The following policy sets out the criteria which will be considered when determining applications for new HMOs or when deciding whether the take enforcement action.
Policy HOU11 – Houses in Multiple Occupation
Proposals for Houses in Multiple Occupation (small or large) will only be permitted where the proposed development, taken by itself or in combination with existing HMOs in the vicinity of the site, would not result in an unacceptably harmful impact in respect of any of the following:
- Residential amenity, caused by increased noise and disturbance;
- Highway safety, caused by insufficient onsite parking provision thereby resulting in an unacceptable increase in on street parking, or
- Visual amenity, including that from inappropriate or insufficient arrangements for dustbin storage.
Permissions granted will normally be subject to a condition that restricts the number of occupants allowed to reside at the property as their main residence.