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Plans for Leyland HMO rejected but it could go ahead irrespective

Posted on - 27th June, 2024 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Leyland, South Ribble News
The property on Bow Lane
The property on Bow Lane

Councillors have rejected plans to turn a family home in Leyland into a bedsit – but planning rules mean it might still go ahead regardless.

The currently vacant property, on Bow Lane, had originally been eyed for conversion to a seven-person ‘house in multiple occupation’ (HMO) – prompting a raft of concerns from those living nearby about the potential for noise, disturbance and parking problems.

Negotiation between the applicant, MTS Developments Limited, and South Ribble Borough Council saw the number of proposed tenants reduced to six. However, that change removed the requirement for planning permission to be granted in order for the scheme to be implemented.

Read more: Parking restrictions on Walton Summit to keep bus passengers safe

Under what is known as ‘permitted development’ regulations, HMOs for six people or fewer do not need to get the go-ahead from planning authorities – but do still require a licence to be issued by council environmental health officials.

That was the bizarre backdrop for a meeting of South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee, which was still asked to consider the application – even though it had no power to block it.

The authority’s planning manager, Catherine Thomas, said the firm behind the proposal had decided to continue with the process, because the blueprint for the dwelling was “already in the public domain”.

Phil Crook, a local objector to the proposal and a qualified fire safety expert, said legislation meant no more than five unrelated adults should be allowed to live in a two-storey property, unless it had been extended. That was not the case with the Bow Lane dwelling, he told committee members.

“These guidelines and regulations are set out with people’s safety in mind [and] their health interests – in short, [they] save lives,” Mr. Crook said.    But the council’s head of legal, Tasneem Safdar said the housing law being referred to governed the environmental health licensing regime, not the planning process.

Fifty-eight letters of objection were lodged to the plans, including from next door neighbour Jim Berry who said the proposed HMO was “not appropriate” for what is a residential area “for families with children”.

“Six unrelated adults housed in a confined space, with no outdoor space, is a recipe for disaster,” Mr. Berry added.

St. Ambrose ward councillor Nicky Peet said the property would sell or rent as a “perfectly good family home”, while her colleague, Jo Hindle-Taylor, expressed concern that the only reason Lancashire County Council highways officials had not objected to the proposal was because of the promise of cycle storage, to reduce reliance on car use by any future occupants.

“What if none of the residents are cyclists?”, Cllr Hindle-Taylor asked.

Committee members recognised that their hands were effectively tied on the matter, but listed their concerns all the same.

Cllr Chris Lomax acknowledged that while “people need somewhere to live”, the house in question was “too small”.

“I hope they don’t get the [environmental health] licence,” he added.

As one of the other objectors who had addressed the meeting grew restive, committee chair Caleb Tomlinson stressed:  “We’re not law-makers, we’re councillors.”

He continued:  “I know you want to scream and shout – I would, [too], because this residence, as far as I’m concerned, is not big enough for six adults.  It’s pokey to say the least.

“It just isn’t acceptable to me, but…there’s nothing this committee can do about it.,” Cllr Tomlinson said.

Members voted to refuse the application – against the advice of planning officers – but a separate application for the required environmental health licence will now have to be made to the authority.

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