Planners block bid for more shared homes in the city

Fareham MP Suella Fernandes with members of Solent Waspi at her Senior Citizens Fair, in Fareham.

Solent Waspi campaigners attend Fareham fair

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COUNCILLORS have spoken out against the number of shared houses in Portsmouth, saying they are destroying the city’s character.

This week planning bosses refused permission to convert four Southsea properties into houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) in a bid to reduce the spread of them across the city.

They argued that HMOs – often associated with student housing – deprive families of much-needed homes and can change the character of neighbourhoods. The move came despite warnings that the council could lose as much £20,000 in fines and costs if the decisions get overturned on appeal.

Applications put in by Portsmouth letting agent New Era Agency for properties in Esslemont Road, Frensham Road, Grayshott Road and Leopold Street were turned down.

Another house in Waverley Road had its decision deferred so more information could be collected.

During the meeting Lib Dem committee member, Cllr Lee Hunt, said: ‘The march of the multiple occupancies in this part of the city is hurting many communities.

‘People have taken the time to write in and tell us what a problem it is in their neighbourhoods and we’re doing our best as a planning authority to act in a proper and lawful way.’

He added: ‘This is about taking a stand and it is not about students; these HMOs are destroying the community character of our city.’

But Conservative committee member Cllr Jim Flemming said he lives in a shared house and thought the prejudice against them was misguided.

He said: ‘My view is that the problem does not come from HMOs.

‘It comes when the council doesn’t deal with nuisance residents.

‘I’m almost certain these refusals will be overturned on appeal. I’m 99 per cent sure.

‘And we’re going to end up with thousands of pounds of fines and costs.

‘These days people are less likely to stay in one place and we need to reflect that. We can’t tell people how and where to live.’

In 2010 the council introduced a policy to limit the number of HMOs in an area to 10 per cent.

But the planning inspector who determines appeals objected and the council is now considering a revised policy.