HMO planning u-turn challenged in High CourtMake Text Bigger
Councils protesting at how Housing Minster Grant Shapps reversed house in multiple occupation planning rules have started a legal challenge against his decision in the High Court.
Led by Milton Keynes Council, the councils are asking the court to reinstate planning rules for small houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) – shared houses for three to five unrelated private renters.
Backing the call are Oxford City Council, Charnwood Borough Council and Newcastle City Council.
Under planning rules termed ‘permitted development rights’, landlords could switch the use of a home from a single property to a small HMO multiple let without planning permission until April 1, 2010.
The rules then changed and required landlords to seek permission for the change of use from their local council.
After the 2011 elections, incoming housing minister then overturned the rules from October 1, 2011 so landlords could develop small HMOs without planning consent.
At the time, Mr Shapps said the government considered councils had enough powers to manage HMOs and that the new law led to too much bureaucracy and expense by creating an extra 8,500 planning applications a year in England.
Milton Keynes Council claims that although councils can designate areas where HMOs need planning permission under article 4 of the Town and Country Planning Act, they risk compensation claims from landlords who have seen the decision cut property values.
Although compensation limits are capped, agrees the council, the liability to pay remains.
Milton Keynes told the court that the rule change lets landlords develop new HMOs without regard to the interests of other residents and that this disregard generates problems like crime, litter, and antisocial behaviour.
Judge Sir Michael Harrison was told Milton Keynes Council controlled HMOs by granting permission with conditions relating to the number of letting rooms, parking, clothes drying, bins and sound insulation.
The council also claimed that a lack of consultation before the law change did not let councils and residents a chance to voice their opinions.
The case continues.
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