Portsmouth to launch battle against rise of shared housing

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A ‘LOOPHOLE’ in planning law that is causing ‘the social breakdown of parts of Portsmouth’ needs to be fixed, a council boss has demanded.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, has pledged to lobby the government to give authorities more power to tackle applications for new homes in multiple occupation (HMO).

It comes as the city chief said the current regulations left the council’s planning committee powerless to refuse new shared housing.

She claimed this was destroying communities, allowing an influx of new residents – often students – to cram into a single street.

Speaking at yesterday’s planning, regeneration and economic development meeting, Cllr Jones said: ‘The planning committee have had frustrations for a very long time now because they cannot refuse an HMO – at which point it’s a farce of being a committee. It’s one of the stupid government loopholes we have to go through.’

Her comments come after communities across the city rallied, calling for more action to be taken to limit the number of HMOs being approved on the island.

Campaigner Martin Willoughby, of Cottage Grove, Southsea, was among those to speak during the meeting.

He said: ‘Our neighbourhood and community have bore the brunt of considerable, uncontrolled HMO development. This dash for HMOs and for students lets has left our area hugely imbalanced with HMOs somewhere in excess of 70 per cent in some streets. Effectively streets have been turned into halls of residence.’

Yesterday’s meeting also saw the council committing to making amendments to a key planning document, which aims to limit where shared housing can be built.

The supplementary planning document, which will go to public consultation in a few weeks, provides guidance on HMO applications.

As well as tackling this, Cllr Jones also pledged to speak to the housing minister Alok Sharma at the Conservative Party’s conference in three weeks’ time.

She said: ‘Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I do think in 20 years time the government of the time will look back and think we have had such a social breakdown.’

The six-week consultation on the new document was due to begin on October 2.

However, councillors and residents demanded this time was brought forward, something Cllr Jones said she would to look into.

She added the council will also look to set up an alert system to inform residents about HMO applications.