West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper spoke out in favour of more powers for residents to act over planning decisions during a Parliamentary debate.
Speaking in the Planning (Community Right of Appeal) debate, MP Rosie highlighted residents’ concerns over the failure to limit the number of Houses in Multiple Occupancy in spite of council restrictions.
MP Rosie supported the proposal that would allow communities the right of appeal on planning decisions. Currently only the planning applicant can appeal to have a local planning authority’s decision reviewed.
Rosie has been involved in this area of local housing and planning, most recently, dealing with the case of a HMO (House in Multiple Occupancy) that was granted on Burscough Street. Rosie has expressed her anger at West Lancashire Borough Council’s lack of enforcement when it comes to HMOs and demands that they toughen up on landlords who ignore the rules.
The Council has recently granted a HMO licence for an address on Burscough Street, but this was twelve months after the landlord began to rent this house to students.
Under HMO laws, this was illegal and the Council should have taken retrospective action against the landlord responsible. Instead, the landlord has now been rewarded by securing a HMO licence on appeal.
Burscough Street is already 17%-20% filled with HMOs, way above the 10% threshold set in the local plan, but the Council’s continuous granting of HMOs over time has led to this situation.
MP Rosie and Ormskirk residents are disgusted by the Borough Council’s lack of action in enforcing the rules in the first place, and landlords’ ability to flout the rules on HMOs, she said:
“Residents feel powerless and that they are being ignored when it comes to planning decisions.
“Take the recent case where a HMO has been granted. It started with the landlord disregarding council rules, which the council failed to enforce allowing an illegal HMO. Subsequently the landlord was granted the licence on appeal.
“There are supposed to be rules to protect residents in the Burscough Street area of Ormskirk.
“This area is already 100% over the 10% threshold for HMOs.
“If the council are unwilling or unable to act in residents’ interests then residents need greater powers to protect themselves from other rogue landlords acting illegally.”
MP Rosie queried during the debate:
“Does she (leader of the debate) agree that a community right of appeal would help residents not only where they oppose developments but in situations where, for example, the council has set a limit on the number of houses in multiple occupation, specifically student homes, in a designated area, and yet it fails to take enforcement action against predatory landlords who are disregarding the planning rules and already exceeding the limit?”
Mary Wright, Chairperson of the New Way Residents and Tenants Association, wrote to the Planning Inspector during consideration of the application for the Burscough Street HMO.
“We are massively disappointed that another HMO has been allowed in this area despite the Article 4 Direction.
“As residents we want to know that the Council is working to protect residents and not allowing landlords free rein.
“If there had been the necessary enforcement in the first place then it may have prevented another HMO being allowed.”