COMMENT: Councillors face a tough decision over home appeal

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Councillors in Portsmouth are facing a dilemma when it comes to an application to turn a six-bedroom home of multiple occupancy (HMO) into a seven-bedroom HMO.

They originally voted to refuse the application but a government inspector blocked their decision on appeal.

Now the council faces a potential £5,000 fine if they go against the inspector and stick to their guns and refuse the application.

While a £5,000 fine is money the council can do without spending, councillors want to make a stand to stop others doing the same.

Councillors feel room sizes are too small for occupants and that the increase to seven bedrooms would affect the surrounding community – a view not shared by the inspector.

Independent councillor Claire Udy was the first to express her frustration and described the application as ‘unbelievable’.

She has been backed by councillors from all parties, including Tory Councillor Donna Jones, who said: ‘A stand needs to be taken to the government. This is about the impact it has on communities and parking.

‘Can we refuse this to send a message to any other developers? Although we would end up paying a fine this could be a case of a stitch in time saves nine.’

And that is where the dilemma lies. It would be all too easy to accept the inspector’s decision and grant the application but that could open the floodgates for other developers or HMO owners to go down the same route.

While there are rules regarding the number of HMOs within a 50-metre radius of one another this particular application doesn’t break those rules.

The council has been battling an ever-increasing housing problem for some time but surely to cram even more people into a single dwelling is not the answer.

Councillors have deferred their decision in order to build up a case for refusal. It will be interesting to see if they stand their ground and face the fine or whether they rubber-stamp the application and run the risk of others following suit.