Planning inspector backs Portsmouth City Council cap on shared homes

RULE The number of shared homes in areas of the city is capped at 10 per cent
RULE The number of shared homes in areas of the city is capped at 10 per cent

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PORTSMOUTH City Council says it has won a key victory in the fight against ‘student ghettos’.

A planning inspector has backed a decision by city planners not to allow another shared house in Great Southsea Street, Southsea.

It comes after the council adopted a new policy in March which limits the number of houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) to 10 per cent of properties in any area.

This drive to cap the number of HMOs – often used to house students – has been criticised by landlords, letting agents and property developers.

But many residents support the council’s stance, complaining of noise, rubbish, parking problems and a drop in property values in areas dominated by shared properties.

The chairman of the planning committee, Cllr Lee Hunt, said he wasn’t happy they had been forced to come up with the rule, but the problems had become impossible to ignore.

He said: ‘It is a shame that it has come to the point where we have to make a policy about shared houses.

‘Because it’s not just students, we know there are lots of working people living in properties like this because house prices are so high.

‘But so many landlords have completely abdicated their responsibilities and just let the council, the police and the university clean up after them.

‘Residents have to put up with rubbish piling up in forecourts and noise disturbances spoiling the quality of their lives.

‘The inspector has agreed that our policy carries weight and we will continue to use it.’

But speaking for the Portsmouth and District Landlords Association, Tony Anthill, said the council was taking the wrong approach.

He said: ‘We accept that a high concentration of shared housing can potentially impact on the lives of residents but we believe that using the planning system in an attempt to control new HMOs is not cost-effective and flawed. It will also have negative consequences.’

He said the council’s drive to rigidly limit HMOs was stopping working people from finding homes, creating unnecessary costs for the council, and giving their planning officers lots of extra work.

‘It is not necessarily the number of HMOs in an area that causes the problems for residents,’ he said.

‘It is the presence of that one badly managed property or group of anti-social residents. We believe that there are more effective ways of dealing with the problems and are engaged in discussions with PCC to take these forward.’

The president of the Southsea Association, Vince Faithfull, said: ‘There needs to be a balance, it’s a very difficult issue.

‘We want to make sure we support and encourage the university, but we don’t want Southsea turning into one big student campus.’

Kelly Arnold, 45, from Great Southsea Street, added: ‘If these kind of decisions aren’t upheld we will be in danger of ending up with student ghettos in Portsmouth – areas where families just don’t feel welcome any more.’

In his judgment on the house in Great Southsea Street, planning inspector Andrew Dale wrote: ‘It is my planning judgment that this community is already evidently suffering from an imbalance due to the concentration or close gathering of HMOs.

‘My reading of the representations from local residents indicates to me that they have observed a steady deterioration in the quality of their life, the local environment and the sense of community.

‘This does not come about as a result of the impact of an individual HMO property; rather it is due to the creeping accumulation of HMOs over a period of time.

‘Adding a further HMO into the southern half of Great Southsea Street would, to my mind, be a step in the wrong direction.’