Multiple occupation crime fears dispelled

The change of use of a care home in a seaside resort in east Yorkshire to a house in multiple occupation (HMO) was judged acceptable despite widespread fears by local residents that it would increase crime and antisocial behaviour.

The site lay within an area covered by an action plan which local residents claimed sought to reduce the number of HMOs and highlighted a recent report which suggested that seaside towns were often targeted by people on very low incomes and reliant on welfare. They asserted that three licensed HMOs were already present on the same street as the appeal site with nine others one street away and a further five within approximately one kilometre. Accommodating up to 21 people in the building would lead to disturbance through increased activity and would increase the rate of crime in the locality, they claimed, relying on objections from the police authority.

An inspector relied on the council’s statement which indicated that 16 HMOs lay within the town which contained over 35,000 people and in excess of 17,500 dwellings. The existing HMOs did not therefore represent an excessive number of the overall stock. While a number of the properties lay relatively close to the appeal site they would not lead to an unacceptable concentration and therefore would not undermine the government’s objective of creating inclusive and mixed communities. Nor would the scheme lead to excessive noise and disturbance or traffic levels when compared with the existing use as a care home.

With regards to crime and the fear of crime, the police authority had stated that the ward generated 16 per cent of all reported crimes despite containing only 4 per cent of the population. In her opinion, however, the town was a popular seaside resort and crime rates were likely to be higher than in other parts of east Yorkshire.

Other crimes had been recorded at HMOs but this did not apply to all such accommodation establishments, she opined. There was little doubt that residents were fearful that the scheme would lead to an increase in public disorder and drug and alcohol abuse but she was unable to find conclusive evidence that the appeal scheme would increase such activities in the area. The property would be licensed and two managers would occupy the building. This would ensure that it was properly managed and regulated.

The impact on tourism was a further issue raised by the council. The premises lay close to the seafront in an area where tourist accommodation was available to visitors. Local guest house owners claimed that it would deter people from coming to the resort but there was little evidence to prove that other HMOs had led to a decline in tourist numbers. As such it would not undermine the council’s tourism strategy nor deter investment in existing businesses. In allowing the appeal the inspector refused to make an award of costs in favour of the appellant, concluding that the council’s putative reasons for refusal had been supported with appropriate evidence and it had not been unduly influenced by local opposition.

Inspector Elaine Worthington; Hearing

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