Council could clamp down on the growth of shared digs in Northampton... by copying Oxford

Campaigners in Far Cotton found that hundreds of houses in the area had been converted into Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HiMOs) without permission.
Campaigners in Far Cotton found that hundreds of houses in the area had been converted into Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HiMOs) without permission.

Landlords could find it harder to section off family homes into shared digs after a cross-party commitment to tackle so-called "HiMOs" was passed in Northampton.

The move could see the town following in Oxford's footsteps by making all of Northampton subject to an "article 4" direction under planning laws.

HiMOs are most commonly found in converted terraced houses and are often marketed as student accomodation.

HiMOs are most commonly found in converted terraced houses and are often marketed as student accomodation.

It would mean any landlord looking to convert houses into shared digs - some of which are known to have more than 10 people living in them at a time - will need to apply for planning permission, wherever they are in the town.

Currently, article 4 directions only exist in a handful of places including Far Cotton and Delapre, Cliftonville, part of the town centre and around Abington Park.

But both Conservative and Labour councillors at Monday night's full borough council meeting agreed to look into putting the ruling in place town-wide.

The motion put forward by Councillor Zoe Smith (Lab, Abington) asked the council to look at Oxford City Council "as a case study and the benefits of adopting their approach"

Various reports have described 10 or more people living in the converted homes.

Various reports have described 10 or more people living in the converted homes.

"In Oxford the whole of the local authority area is covered by an Article 4 directive," said Councillor Smith. "Any proposal to create a new HiMO, including the change of use of any dwelling to a HiMO, will only be permitted where the proportion of properties within 100 metres of street length either side of the property does not exceed 20 per cent."

Opposition leader Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle), said she was thrilled with the support from both sides of the chamber.

She said: “I am pleased the Tories are beginning to listen to us on HMOs.

"Oxford City Council have imposed an Article 4 directive across the whole of their area. We have a crisis in housing and HMO in our town at present."

The issue of shared housing in Northampton has come to the fore in recent months after studies revealed many landlords were flouting the rules to convert properties for extra profits.

HMO Action Group for Far Cotton counted 120 unregistered HiMOs in 15 streets, 70 of which were subsequently confirmed by borough council housing officers.

If the pattern is repeated across the town in the seven areas where Article 4 directions are in place, there are likely to be thousands of unregulated homes crammed with tens of thousands of extra tenants, often in already tightly-packed terraced streets.