South Gloucester Council slammed for ‘unreasonable behaviour’ after rejecting planning for Filton bedsits

A developers appeal has been upheld to turn this Filton property into a large house in multiple occupation (HMO).A developers appeal has been upheld to turn this Filton property into a large house in multiple occupation (HMO).
A developers appeal has been upheld to turn this Filton property into a large house in multiple occupation (HMO). | Google
One councillor called the ruiling “pretty grim reading”

A planning inspector has criticised South Gloucestershire Council for “unreasonable behaviour” as he overturned its decision to refuse eight bedsits in Filton.

The government-appointed expert upheld a developer’s appeal to convert a family home at 15 Braemar Crescent into a large house in multiple occupation (HMO), and awarded costs – a ruling one councillor has called “pretty grim reading”.

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In response the local authority says it is disappointed with but accepts the decision and is introducing measures called an Article 4 Direction which will limit some landlords’ freedom to divide properties into shared accommodation.

Spatial planning committee members had narrowly rejected the application by Samuel Padbury, who runs Kasa Real Estate, in February on the grounds that it would adversely affect the area’s housing mix and community balance because of an overconcentration of student digs.

But the inspector, Jonathan Edwards, decided that the council had failed to show there were already too many HMOs nearby, had cited “inconsistent information” and had not explained why it thought the proposal would harm the neighbourhood’s character and appearance.

Mr Edwards’ ruling said: “I conclude the council’s appeal submissions fail to meaningfully explain or justify its objections to the scheme.

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“Therefore, the council has failed to properly substantiate its refusal reasons.

“This unreasonable behaviour has resulted in the need for the applicant to submit a planning appeal and so incur unnecessary expense.”

His report said planning permission was granted previously for extensions to the four-bedroom, semi-detached property and that it had a licence for a five-bedroom HMO, so the additional changes would make “no meaningful difference to the balance of the local community or housing mix in the area”.

It said the council introduced new rules in 2021 that capped the number of bedsits in an area to 10 per cent in a locality and 20 per cent within 100 metres of a site.

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An aerial view of Braemar Crescent in Filton. 18 Braemar Avenue is in the middle of the row of houses immediately above it in the image, on the main roadAn aerial view of Braemar Crescent in Filton. 18 Braemar Avenue is in the middle of the row of houses immediately above it in the image, on the main road
An aerial view of Braemar Crescent in Filton. 18 Braemar Avenue is in the middle of the row of houses immediately above it in the image, on the main road | Google

But Mr Edwards said this made clear only licensed HMOs, with five or six people, or large HMOs with seven or more occupants, which require planning consent, should be included in assessments, not smaller or unlicensed ones.

The inspector said claims at a planning committee meeting that 11.2 per cent of households in “this part of Filton” were shared accommodation were vague, unsubstantiated and conflicted with the “more convincing” statement by the authority’s top planning officer that this was actually 1.3 per cent.

The report said: “The council’s reasons for refusing planning permission are that the proposal would add to a proliferation of HMOs and so it would be harmful to the character and appearance of the area.

“However, no evidence has been submitted by the council to show where HMOs are in the locality or to demonstrate that there is already a proliferation.

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“There is no explanation provided as to which figure the council considers accurate.

“In any event, the council’s submissions fail to explain in any detail why it considers the proposal would cause actual harm to the character and appearance of the area, regardless as to the level of HMOs in the locality.”

It said this lack of evidence was a “particular failure” given local planning policy was “generally supportive” of shared homes.

The inspector wrote: “On my visit, I saw no obvious signs of any properties being used as an HMO.

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“Even if I am incorrect and nearby properties are used for such a purpose, there is no evidence to show how these impact negatively on the qualities of the area.”

Lib Dem Cllr Tristan Clark told the development management committee on Thursday, October 13: “It’s pretty grim reading in terms of the planning inspector’s assessment.

“It was a very difficult application. The planning inspector basically said the refusal reasons weren’t substantiated and were not reasonable.”

A South Gloucestershire Council spokesperson said: “We strive for mixed and balanced communities throughout South Gloucestershire and the council deemed that the addition of an HMO in this locality would add to the already considerable density of HMOs and be detrimental to the character and amenity of the area.

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“We are disappointed at the Planning Inspectorate’s decision, but we accept his findings and will enter into a discussion with the applicant regarding the costs element.

“Although we understand that HMOs can be an important part of the housing mix, we recognise that in some areas they can change the nature of the community and put more pressure on local roads and other infrastructure.

“To help us better manage HMOs we are introducing an Article 4 Direction later this year that will help us take greater control over their growth in parts of Filton (the Stoke Park and Cheswick wards, and Filton ward to the east of Southmead Road and Gloucestershire Road North).

“This direction is intended to help improve our neighbourhoods and give the council more control over the way our communities grow and change by ensuring proposed HMO developments are considered against the council’s adopted Local Plan policies and supporting HMOs supplementary planning document.”

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