People in Far Cotton say they have had enough. An increase is properties being converted into Houses of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) – a shared dwelling house or flats occupied by between three and six people – is ripping the heart out of their community, they believe. And now they are doing something about it.
Since the University of Northampton submitted plans to move out of its current sites in St George’s Avenue and Boughton Green Road to a 55-acre site in Nunn Mills Road within the Waterside Enterprise Zone, landlords have been snapping up student lets in Penryn Road, Southampton Road and in neighbouring streets.
Ron Fitzhugh, vice chairman of Far Cotton Residents Association, said there was already increased parking pressures in Far Cotton, which will only get worse.
“What these HMOs can’t do and what Far Cotton can’t do is absorb any more parking, even say ten cars on each of these streets – Southampton Road, Euston Road, Penryn Road, Delapre Crescent Road. We are jam packed, and that’s without the block of flats going up on the old Tivoli,” he said.
“You can bet your life that there are two or three planning applications for Southampton Road every week, it just goes on and on and on, I think it’s the start of a tidal wave.
“The house prices in the area are rising quite rapidly and people will be tempted to sell and that only gives these entrepreneurs opportunity to cash in.”
Residents in the area also fear for overspill refuse, rat infestations and anti-social behaviour. He added: “The spirit and the community in these four blocks here, the heart will be ripped out of it. We are really concerned in the sense that we see one alternative and that is that the spirit of Far Cotton will be lost.”
Jill Harris, 64, was born in Far Cotton and uses a mobility scooter. She said: “I have lived in my house 40 years and I cannot move because I am divorced, my partner has a half share in my house and if I move I have to give him his share, where can I go? I can’t get anywhere for £100,000.
“The furthest I can get is to St Leonards Road, I never leave Far Cotton, I don’t even get to town because I can’t get there and it’s affecting my mental health.”
A cabinet report submitted by head of planning, Peter Baguley states that on March 15, earlier this year, members agreed to introduce Article 4 Directions to withdraw planning development rights for the change of use within houses to HMOs in areas within Far Cotton, Delapre and Cliftonville – because there was evidence demonstrating that the growth of HMOs needed to be managed. This came into force in April.
Now, landlords who develop properties in this area must submit a planning application to change the use of houses into HMOs so councillors can consider other concerns.
Under the Article 4 Direction there should not be more than 15 per cent of HMOs in a 50 metre radius - but residents contest that there are unlicensed HMOs in Far Cotton, not on the council’s radar.
A LANDLORD'S VIEW
Wes Boswell, a property developer since 2009, has acquired a four-bedroom property on Southampton Road.
He said that the media has previously stigmatised HMOs.
“This stereotype is fortunately not the reality of all shared housing – most of which is owned and managed by professional landlords. HMOs are an essential choice of accommodation for many people since they are more affordable than renting a whole property.
“The approved relocation of the University of Northampton was inevitably going to lead to a demand from students to live within close proximity of the university and town centre and this is possibly one of the biggest consequences of the relocation.
“The Interim Planning Policy Statement issued by Northampton Borough Council acknowledges that there will be an increased demand for HMOs in Far Cotton, as purpose built student accommodation will not satisfy demand.
“The Article 4 directive is a sensible way to control the mix of accommodation available within a community, however the gamble of whether planning will be issued should be far more certain for property owners and investors than it currently is.
“It is the responsibility of the council and the whole community, and not just landlords to manage and improve the availability of parking in an area. Due consideration must be given by all parties involved to implement one way systems, diagonal parking spaces and introduce parking permits.”