Council to clamp down on houses turned into flats

By Geoff Berkeley Thursday 31 January 2013 Updated: 01/02 08:56

STRICTER rules to clamp down on homes being converted into student flats in Worcester could come into force after the proposals were supported by city planners.

The move, which was discussed at a meeting of Worcester City Council’s planning committee on Thursday (January 24), could see landlords face tougher restrictions to convert their property into a house of multiple occupancy (HMO).

They would have to put in a planning application before such a change of use could be considered.

Paul O’Connor, head of planning at the city council, told councillors there was no better time to make the rule change and insisted too many HMOs could lead to the erosion of the character of an area.

“There is evidence to suggest it leads to more noise, more disturbances and more activity, which would not be expected in those areas,” he said.

Coun Christine Cawthorne (Lab/St John’s) was one of a number of councillors to back the proposals and said she continually witnessed family homes being turned into flats.

“We cannot afford to lose family homes at the rate it is happening and that is as significant as the issue of character and amenity,” she said.

Coun Derek Prodger (Cons/Bedwardine) added: “When you see a HMO come along the amenity of the area changes significantly.

“Can you imagine six students, all with vehicles, trying to park in four spaces and then their friends turn up?”

After the meeting a spokeswoman from the University of Worcester said they worked hard to ensure students were considerate neighbours.

“We encourage our students to integrate and participate positively within their communities,” she said.

“On the rare occasion where issues arise, we work with all concerned to resolve issues swiftly, effectively and fairly.

“The university only recommends residential properties that meet strict criteria, set by the local authority. Our aim is to keep standards high and to avoid areas becoming dominated by student housing.”

The proposed rule change will be debated at the council’s next cabinet meeting in February and could come into force from May 2014.

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