Potential new hurdles for landlords aiming to change Northampton properties into shared housing

The policy changes have been discussed at The Guildhall, and will go out for consultation
The policy changes have been discussed at The Guildhall, and will go out for consultation

Landlords face potential new hurdles if they want to convert their Northampton properties into shared homes.

Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) can act as accommodation for students, workers on low incomes and residents who prefer to rent.

But the concentration of these kinds of homes in certain areas, and the lack of them in others, sparked Northampton Borough Council to instigate research by Loughborough University. Following the completion of that study, a new supplementary planning document (SPD) is being put out to consultation and is proposing to reduce the saturation threshold.

Currently, the council’s planning committee can refuse a HMO planning application if more than 15 per cent of properties within a 50-metre radius are already HMOs. One of the key proposals of the document is to reduce that figure to 10 per cent.

It also sets out the requirements for the provision of adequate parking for HMOs. This will ensure that there will be no ‘unacceptable adverse impacts on on-street parking and highway safety in the vicinity’.

Applications for HMOs can not be turned down on parking grounds, even if the county’s highways team objects to the application. But inspectors may look more favourably on the council’s decision to refuse if the SPD has a clear stance on parking.

There is currently no need for landlords across large parts of the town to get planning permission to convert properties into HMOs, where they house up to six unrelated people. But several parts of Northampton, including the town centre and Far Cotton, are currently covered by Article 4 Directions which mean all HMO conversions must be supported by planning permission.

A council report states: “There is an undersupply of HMOs in Northampton and the demand is likely to increase. Secondly, over concentrations of HMOs in some parts of Northampton have resulted in detrimental effects on the character of local communities and neighbourhoods.

“Finally, the relocation of the University of Northampton to its Waterside campus has shifted the geographical demand for HMOs to the town centre. However, the study [by Loughborough University] concluded that the increase is not tied just to students but also to young professionals, workers in temporary jobs and vulnerable social groups.”

The document is now set to go out for consultation for eight weeks from August 8 to October 3, after agreement from the council’s cabinet last Wednesday (July 24).

Councillor James Hill, the cabinet member for planning, said: “If they are not properly managed, HMOs can cause serious issues for the neighbourhoods they are part of.

“If tenants do not have adequate provision for cars or reasonable means of dealing with refuse, these can become big issues resulting in on-street parking issues and fly-tipping.

“As many HMOs are short-term lets, it can also be difficult to create a sense of community in those areas, particularly where there is a high density of such properties.

“There is also the risk of tenants being exploited by unscrupulous landlords so it is vital that these properties are maintained to a good standard.

“This supplementary planning document will help us manage the number and quality of HMOs in Northampton.”