Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) 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 B&NES at the end of May, 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 whole City of Bath with effect from 1st July 2013.
A consultation period on the matter is now underway, which will last until Friday 20th July 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 so far evolved from our campaign work:
1. Student accommodation can no longer be targeted indiscriminately
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.
2. Use of Council Tax student exemption data could be illegal
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.
3. There are limits to setting restrictions
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.
4. Demand for shared housing
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.
5. Is there really any evidence of adverse impacts from HMOs?
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.
6. Where’s the material change of use?
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?
Say ‘No’ to A4D Facebook page
The RLA is continuing its campaign against Article 4 directives, and has set up a dedicated Facebook page providing up-to-date news and information on the subject. To view the page please visit: www.facebook.com/No2Article4.
We will be contacting B&NES members in due course to bring them up-to-date with the latest information and provide them with ways in which they can campaign against this proposal.