Call for tighter HMO powers in Corby backed by Northants Telegraph campaign
A campaign to give communities a greater say when it comes to HMO applications in Corby is today launched by the Northants Telegraph.
We're calling for an Article Four Direction to be made in Corby to hand back some power to local people when new Houses in Multiple Occupation are proposed in our town.
A special investigation by our reporters today showed there are now 263 large HMOs in Corby. They are subject to licensing and planning legislation.
But the Government's permitted development rights allow smaller HMOs for less than six people to avoid the planning process altogether. It isn't known how many of these smaller HMOs there are in Corby.
Making an Article Four Direction would mean that all HMOs for more than three people would have to go through the planning process, allowing local people to have a say on each and every one of them. It would also mean that local councillors may have the opportunity to 'call in' applications of this type to go before the council's Corby area planning committee.
Other local authorities in Northampton and Peterborough have made similar rules when faced with growing numbers of HMOs.
Locals have already told the Northants Telegraph they would be in favour of such a rule being brought in in Corby.
People living in Pen Green Lane, on Corby's oldest housing estate, have been fighting the proposed change of use of a neat family home in their street into a six-bed HMO.
Michael Ponting, who lives close to the house, said: "If they wanted to come in and improve it and extend it to turn it into a four-bed family home then I'd have no objection.
"But a five-bedroom HMO, I have a problem with.
"I'm almost certain that when the Government changed planning laws to allow permitted development they did it to help people like you and I to put a little extension on the back of the house that's not going to be too obtrusive.
"People are doing that without a lot of fuss to improve their home.
"The law change wasn't so investors can turn up in Corby from Milton Keynes and London and make a fortune on the back of people who can't afford thousands for a house deposit.
"This is another perfectly good family home taken out of the marketplace."
Michael says that he believes an Article Four Direction would make a real difference in Corby.
"Control goes away from the developers and investors and comes back to the council," he said. "They'd have to apply before they start work.
"Maybe they 'd say 'I'm not going to get tied up in Corby' and go elsewhere.
"If a family rented this home it would be about £800 or £900 per month but an HMO landlord might get £650 per ensuite room.
"But if we get an Article Four Direction it will allow the council to say no, we have enough HMOs here.
"It might not help our cause, it's probably too late for that, but it will help other people in Corby."
Although article four has its limits, it's hoped that it might put off opportunist developers who have no vested interest in making our town a better place to live. It would still allow people to become HMO landlords in our town to fulfil a real need for single-person accommodation. But the location of such houses would come under more scrutiny.
Backing our campaign, Paul Palmer, Corby's former empty homes officer and latterly an HMO landlord said: "Article four is a good idea.
"If you go on the landlord forums you can see that it just makes it that little bit harder for people to run an HMO so it puts off people who might just be coming to Corby purely for profit. - these people who have come here just because of the money they can make.
"You can still be an HMO landlord if there's an Article Four Direction in place but you'll have to go through more regulation."
And James Cuff, whose house neighbours an HMO on the Hazel Leys estate, said: "Article four might make a difference. Anything that gives people more of a say in what's going on on their doorstep might help."
When the Northants Telegraph has previously reported on HMO applications, the publicity has generated a passionate response on social media, with many people telling stories of the effect of this type of home on their lives. Local planning officers are increasingly reluctant to grant permission to large HMOs because of the effect they have on the lives of local people.
This retrospective application for a nine-bed HMO in Blake Road was refused on the grounds of 'excessive intensification' of the use of the property following our story last year. An application for an eight-bed HMO in Holyrood Walk was also turned down following local objections, and planners also rejected this plan for a 12-bed HMO in The Brontes. An appeal from the owner was rejected by the secretary of state.
The Northants Telegraph contacted NNC last week to relay the concerns of residents and, on Friday, received the news that the authority had agreed to take a closer look at the issue. A verbal report on the possibility of making an Article Four Direction will be made by officers to the NNC Planning Policy Panel which meets next Monday (July 19) at the council chamber in Thrapston.
A statement from NNC said: "North Northamptonshire Council is aware of concerns over the increase in the numbers of HMOs in areas of our towns.
“Smaller HMOs fall under permitted development rights, which means planning permission does not need to be applied for and there’s limited action which can be taken.
“A tool to control this type of housing is through issuing an Article Four Direction, this enables the authority to withdraw specific permitted development rights across a defined area.
“The matter is on the agenda to be discussed by members of the Planning Policy Executive Advisory Panel on Monday.”
The meeting will be chaired by Cllr Steven North and you can find a list of committee members here if you would like to contact them ahead of the meeting.
You can read today's Northants Telegraph special investigation into Corby's HMOs here