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PLANNING: HMO sparks crime and Covid fears

PLANNING: HMO sparks crime and Covid fears

Image: Google Maps

Turning a family home in Solihull into a HMO for up to eight people could fuel crime and lead to regular rows over parking, planners were warned this week.

Proposals to extend and convert a property in Piccadilly Close, Chelmsley Wood, had caused grave concern among neighbours.

And they feared the plans would set a precedent for many similar schemes on one of the borough’s most densely populated housing estates.

Questions were also raised about the dangers of having so many people staying under one roof during the coronavirus crisis.

At this week’s planning committee, members unanimously rejected the plans – despite being warned by their officers that the address could operate as a HMO for up to six people without needing permission.

Local resident Ray Flint, speaking on behalf of concerned neighbours, said: “It is a well-known fact that HMOs promote anti-social behaviour, attract drugs and violence.”

He also cited concerns that the “close-knit” community already experienced problems with parking and further demand was likely to lead to disputes.

Chelmsley Wood councillor Chris Williams (Green) had said: “HMOs absolutely do have a role to play in housing single people and couples but in the right places – and this isn’t one of them.”

He said the application had proven the most controversial in his ward for several years and that many locals worried the area could be bombarded with similar schemes – as has happened in parts of Birmingham.

However, the applicant had attempted to allay concerns that the HMO could open the door to more of the same, arguing that current lodgings were well spread across Solihull.

A statement provided to the committee: “The proposed accommodation is not aimed at people needing specialist support or supervision but for general, low-cost accommodation for which there is a recognised demand.”

But members were deeply unhappy with the proposals on the table.

Cllr Maggie Allen (Green, Shirley West) said that – while it wasn’t a planning matter – she was concerned about the dangers of having so many people in a confined space given the current pandemic.

“You’ve got eight people sharing communal places.

“Under the present circumstances, where we’ve lost over 100,000 people due to Covid – a virus which absolutely loves social interaction – I really don’t think we should be encouraging HMOs at the moment.”

Cllr Michael Gough (Con, Silhill) said: “When I looked at this agenda pack and looked at this application I couldn’t believe what was in front of me – I really couldn’t.

“There’s absolutely no way that this is a suitable development for this area. I was just amazed.”

And Cllr David Cole (Lab, Kingshurst & Fordbridge) added: “It isn’t correct, it isn’t right and it shouldn’t happen.”

HMOs – Houses of Multiple Occupation, to give their full title – have caused controversy across the region.

Common criticisms are that some properties are poorly regulated or increase the risk of anti-social behaviour – with West Midlands Police research suggesting the addresses are over three times more likely to attract problems.

However, it is also argued that well-managed HMOs can make a difference to those in need of accommodation – perhaps having recently fallen on hard times.

Words: David Irwin, Local Democracy Reporter


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