Cheshire West & Chester are the latest local authority to consider using an Article 4 direction (A4D) to control homes in multiple occupancy (HMOs).
An Article 4 direction notice was issued by Cheshire West & Chester, giving notice of its intention to implement an A4D to trigger planning permission for change of use from a family house to a small HMO across the Garden Quarter with effect from 8th July 2013.
A consultation period on the matter is now underway, which will last until 5pm on Friday 31st August 2012.
The RLA has been at the forefront of the campaign against the officious use of Article 4 directions by local authorities to restrict increases in HMOs.
Such directions go against market forces, restrict the supply of affordable housing to meet ever-growing demand and encourage social degradation and blight where properties cannot be let and are left empty.
The case against Article 4 has been growing with every imposition of a direction and key lines of argument have been cemented during appeals processes instigated by the RLA.
There are six key points that have evolved from our campaign work:
The RLA has defeated the concept of the ‘balanced’ community. Local authorities can no longer justify their decision based on the personal status of individuals, such as the number of students living in an area. Instead, local authorities must now make the decision based on providing areas with a mix of housing. They need to demonstrate that due to concentration, HMOs have become a dominant type of housing in the locality if the concentration results in adverse impact of residential amenity eg. noise, antisocial behaviour etc.
To ascertain the number of multiple occupancy properties, local authorities are using Council Tax student exception data to collate the information. We believe that the use of such data is illegal, under data protection legislation.
Local authorities have been trying to limit the number of HMOs in a particular area; eg. by saying that there can be no more than 10% of properties which are HMOs within a 100 metre radius. The RLA has been successful in persuading the Planning Inspectorate that these limits are being decided on without any proper supporting evidence to justify them. Local authorities have been asked to think again and come up with the necessary evidence.
The RLA has made the point that national planning policy requires that the needs and demands for housing for all sections of the community including young sharers must be met.
Time and time again, the RLA is asking for evidence to show that HMOs are present and actually causing harm to neighbours. There is a lot of prejudice out there but very little hard evidence. A lot of this is about prejudice against young people’s lifestyles. Challenges from the RLA reveal that local authorities are finding it hard to come up with any real evidence to support claims or problems.
An area of argument that we intend to fully explore is in relation to the actual material change of use for many of the properties potentially affected by Article 4 directions. In many of these circumstances, planning permission is demanded under Article 4 only if there is a material change of use. However, who is to say that the home for a family of four will have any change of use if it is then home to, for instance, four nurses?
The RLA is continuing its campaign against Article 4 directives, and will be submitting its formal response to the Cheshire West & Chester consultation in due course.
The RLA will be submitting its formal response to Cheshire West & Chester in due course. However, in order to send the strongest message possible to the local authority we need as many individual RLA members to assist us. You can help us in the following ways:
• Submit your own consultation response – You can submit your own response to the consultation, and a handy briefing note can be viewed to assist you in writing your own letter.
Letters can be returned either via email to email@example.com or by mail to: Mark Lynch, Development Manager, Cheshire West & Chester Council, The Forum, Chester, CH1 2HS quoting reference WK/201201274.
• Download the RLA template letter – A personally-written letter always carries the most impact, however we understand that sometimes it is difficult to find the time to write such a letter. As such, the RLA has drafted a template that you can download and amend to suit your circumstances.
Letters can be returned either via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to: Mark Lynch, Development Manager, Cheshire West & Chester Council, The Forum, Chester, CH1 2HS quoting reference WK/201201274.
• Say ‘No’ to A4D on Facebook - The RLA has now set up a dedicated Facebook page providing up-to-date news and information about Article 4 directions. To view the ‘Say ‘No’ to A4D’ page, to support our campaign and let us know your views please visit www.facebook.com/No2Article4.
• Provide us with your case studies – The RLA’s campaigns are much better if they include case studies. If you can provide us with a case study please email us at: email@example.com.
• Fill in our survey – What are your thoughts about the proposals? Let us know by filling in our survey.
• Contact your local councillors – Lobby your local Cheshire West & Chester councillors.
• Contact Stephen Mosley MP – Lobby Stephen Mosley MP, the constituency MP for the City of Chester.
• Inform other landlords - Do you know other landlords that this proposal may affect? If so please let them know about the consultation period and our campaign. By spreading the word and getting more involved we can build a stronger case against this proposal.
Page last updated 12th July 2012.