Application for determination:
Change of use of first and second floors from Hotel (C1 use) to a 17 bed House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) (sui generis use).
The Principal Planning Officer presented the report detailing an application for a change of use of first and second floors from Hotel (C1 use) to a 17 bed House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) (sui generis use).
She referred to the supplementary late material, which incorporated additional comments from the Housing Team and Gloucestershire County Highways. The Highways team had indicated that a S106 agreement was no longer necessary as part of the application.
An agent representing the applicant addressed the Committee in favour of the application.
She stated that it should be granted on the following grounds:
- There were currently more than 200 households living in temporary accommodation in Gloucester, granting the application would help to combat this.
- The applicant had had thorough conversations with the Housing Strategy Team and other relevant officers and had made alterations when required.
- The application would provide 17 rooms, and 4 communal kitchen areas/ dining areas.
- There would be no alteration to the exterior of the property.
- A bat box and Vivaro Pro Woodstone Swift nest box would be provided.
- The application site was in a highly sustainable location.
- The application complied with policy A2 (Houses in Multiple Occupation) of the adopted City Plan.
- Granting the application would put back into active use the upper floor of the disused hotel, would provide 17 bedrooms and was in an excellent location.
The Principal Planning Officer responded to Members’ questions concerning whether amenity space would be provided, concerns around whether the HMO would be used for emergency temporary accommodation or could be used by residents on a longer term basis, clarification about the classification of sui generis, concerns about who would be the housing provider, whether there would be children at the accommodation, whether there would be animals living at the property, whether providing bike storage was a required condition, clarification regarding whether the build would be for temporary or longterm use, whether the public house was still operating as usual, whether the application was still subject to a S106 agreement and what the applicant’s potential course of action if the application was refused as follows:
- In regard to amenity space, there was no outdoor amenity space being provided as part of the application. The north side of the site included a small hard standing yard area but this would be set aside for bin and cycle storage
- The application was for a change of use. Officers had had discussions with the applicant and Housing Providers, but whether or not the accommodation would be used for emergency/temporary accommodation or was used on a longer-term basis by tenants, fell outside the scope of the application.
- The term sui-generis was one used for properties that did not fall into any specific category.
- The financial history of the applicant company who would provide the housing was not a material planning consideration in determining the application
- Children would probably be housed at some of the dwellings.
- The application was intended to address the approval or denial of a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). Determining the identity of the occupiers, however, fell beyond the purview of the application.
The provision of bike storage was a requirement for residential developments
- The HMO would be accessed from an existing doorway along the west elevation of the building which currently led to the stairs serving the hotel. The pub would continue to be accessed via the main front entrance to the south of the building. No access would be available to the pub via the HMO entrance.
- The application sought approval for an unrestricted House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), thereby leaving the decision regarding whether it would be utilised for short-term or long-term housing at the discretion of the provider.
- The building would not be staffed.
- The Public House was still operating as usual.
- The owner of the Station Hotel was not a material planning consideration.
- The application was no longer subject to a S106 agreement, this was reflected in the additional late material.
- The applicant could reapply, should permission not be granted.
The Locum Planning Lawyer responded to Members’ questions concerning whether the application would come back to Committee in the event of a deferral as follows:
- If the application was deferred, it would come back to Committee.
The Planning Development Manager responded to Members’ questions concerning apprehension around the potential housing provider, whether the properties would be used for temporary accommodation or be used on a longer-term basis and whether it was predicted that the number of units needed for temporary accommodation would change as follows:
- Who the applicant/housing provider was, was not a material planning consideration. The applicant had indicated that they may use the builds for temporary accommodation, but it could be deemed unreasonable to try and condition this as the application was about the principle of a change of use. The background of the company was not a material planning consideration.
- The demand for emergency accommodation was forecasted to rise, owing to the economic climate. Even if the applicant decided not to use the property for temporary and emergency accommodation, the properties would still be at the entry level for getting on the housing market as HMO’s were low cost.
The Chair articulated he wanted tighter planning guidance on the provision of HMO’s. However, he said that he believed the application was policy compliant. He said that he would have preferred that the site was used for emergency and temporary accommodation but that the Committee could only judge an application on material planning grounds.
The Vice-Chair noted that he would have been in favour of the application had it been solely for emergency temporary accommodation. He said that he was now less enthusiastic about the application. He said that he was inclined to suggest either refusal or possibly deferring the application so that clarification could be sought as to whether the applicant proposed to house temporary or more long-term tenants.
Councillor Conder expressed her belief that the rooms proposed were not particularly spacious and that they were only suitable for short-term emergency accommodation. She said that the application originally sought to only house people from Gloucester, then it was spread wider. She also raised objections about the proximity of the proposed dwellings to a busy main road. She said that she was unsure as to how she would vote.
Councillor Dee noted that she was disappointed that the building could no longer function as a Hotel.
Councillor Tracey expressed concerns regarding the application, particularly with respect to the insufficient provision of green space for the prospective residents of the dwellings and its proximity to a busy road.
Councillor Gravells acknowledged the challenges in determining his voting stance and drew attention to the quantity of affordable housing within the City. He mentioned that he would likely have voted in favour had the application been situated elsewhere. He expressed a leaning towards supporting the Vice-Chair's potential suggestion of proposing deferral.
Councillor Sawyer articulated her belief that the application site was inappropriately located.
The Chair highlighted that there would need to be a valid planning reason for suggesting refusal of the application.
The Locum Planning Lawyer noted that it would be difficult to defer for the reasons suggested by the Committee (clarification on whether the dwellings would be used for emergency or long-term housing). The application before the Committee was on the principle of converting the Hotel into an unrestricted HMO and members should consider the application before them.
The Planning Development Manager noted that he agreed with the points raised by the Locum Planning Lawyer. He stated that the applicant had applied for open market dwellings.
Councillor Tracey expressed her disagreement with the proposal for deferral, citing that she believed it was not the appropriate course of action. She conveyed concerns about the well-being of prospective occupants of the dwellings, primarily due to the inadequate amenity space and the close proximity of the dwellings to a busy highway network. She emphasized that this could lead to noise pollution and pose a danger, especially for young children residing in the area.
Councillor Sawyer questioned whether the lack of sustainability was a valid planning reason for refusal.
The Planning Development Manager noted that any suggestion for refusal would have to have sufficient planning grounds to do so.
The Vice-Chair noted that he did not wish to seek deferral as he did not believe that his reasons for suggesting deferral were of material planning importance. However, he stated that he would consider voting for refusal on the grounds that it was an inappropriate location, given the lack of amenity space and its proximity to the highway network.
Councillor Dee raised concerns that young families would be housed above a Public House.
Councillor Tracey believed that there were issues regarding health and wellbeing of the residents.
The Vice-Chair moved, and Councillor Sawyer seconded a motion to refuse the application on the grounds that the application site was inappropriately located owing to its proximity to the highway network and on the fact that it did not provide adequate amenity space.
RESOLVED that the application was refused on the grounds that the application site was inappropriately located owing to its proximity to the highway network and on the grounds that the application would provide inadequate amenity space for the residents of the dwellings.