Controversy continues over ‘family home’ turned HMO

Reporter: Charlotte Hall, Local Democracy Reporter
Date published: 12 April 2024

A developer is turning a home in Oldham into a ‘controversial’ House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO), despite opposition from local residents.

The house at 1, Norfolk Crescent in Failsworth is permitted to become a six-bed rental arrangement. 

The property was recently the subject of a heated town planning meeting, when the developer James Sherlock sought approval for an extension to the building.

Local councillor Sandra Ball described the plans as a ‘wolf’s in sheep’s clothing’ due to the ‘obvious’ intention to turn the property into a HMO.

The planning proposal received 64 objections at the time, with Coun Ball arguing that the developer was ‘trying to pull a fast one by using a loophole in the application system’ and ‘submitting this application under the guise of a family home extension’.

The council approved the proposal as there were no grounds to refuse the application under UK planning law. 

The concerns that the home would become a HMO, which residents felt would ‘change the character of the area’ and cause parking issues, seem to have been realised.

 A ‘change of use’ application was approved by council officers on March 14, according to documents published on April 10. 

“It’s really disappointing,” Coun Ball told the LDRS.

“It’s exactly what we said would happen.

"This is their way in - put it in as a house application and then turn it into a HMO.

"Oldham is just becoming the land of HMOs at the minute.” 

The ‘change of use’ document noted that an objection had been raised but that it could not be considered because an application of this type does not require planning permission.  

An officer wrote: “The local planning authority is not obliged to publicise applications for certificates of lawfulness since the matters to be determined are solely matters of fact and law.

"One objection has been received; however, it cannot be considered due to this.” 

But while some feared there could be up to 11 people living in the five double bedrooms and one single bedroom in the home, the HMO will only be allowed to house a maximum of six people.

Any more tenants and the developer would need to apply for planning permission. 

HMOs are a fraught subject in Oldham, where a desperate need for new homes is often at loggerheads with residents who face problems with severely limited parking and a history of poor housing quality. 

Local councillor in Oldham, Howard Sykes, recently called for a reform of the ‘permitted development rights’ which permit HMOs without planning permission.

He claimed Oldham was ‘battling a HMO epidemic’. 

Coun Sykes argued: “When planning laws are relaxed to allow developers to pack housing units into ex-commercial sites, the developer makes the big bucks, but the quality of housing is poor and its local people who suffer the consequences.”

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