RESIDENTS were left ‘devastated’ after planners gave the go-ahead for a family home in Shirley to be converted into a multi-occupancy property.
An application to convert a property in Lindridge Road, a semi-detached three bedroom house, into a six bedroom multi-occupancy (HMO) was approved at Solihull council in unusual circumstances
The application was accepted despite widespread condemnation from local residents who believe that their objections were not considered at the planning committee meeting.
Out of the nine councillors who sit on the planning committee only two of them voted for the application to be approved – the same number who voted against while the remaining five abstained.
With votes tied, the chair of the committee, Coun David Bell (Conservative), approved the application with his deciding vote.
However, the decision of five councillors to abstain in the vote, despite many speaking against the development, caused angry scenes to break out at the meeting, with cries of “You call that democracy?” being heard on the microphones.
Resident campaigner Jo Breakwell, said over 90 complaints have been submitted to the planning department.
Further to this, a petition has been created and has drawn 122 signatures objecting to the plans.
After the decision was made, the residents issued a statement: “Residents were left devastated over the way this planning decision was voted through.
“Living accommodation against small children’s bedrooms, inadequate parking, and huge intensity of use of a family home would adversely impact on neighbours and the area.
“The council have a policy P14 Amenity that says planning consent will not be given if it has an adverse impact on its neighbours which the councillors agreed would be the case.
“We were disgusted with the behaviour of the five councillors who sat on their hands and abstained from voting after all they had said in the discussion about the adverse impact.
“This is the second property in Lindridge Road to be converted into bedsits by this landlord (Pear Tree Properties Limited of Henley in Arden) and we already experience parking nuisance issues from that.”
Jo’s husband, Nigel Breakwell, said: “It’s clear that this is way too big for the site and all the parking, drainage and light problems will fall on us, the community. All this to line the pockets of someone who doesn’t live in the area.”
Richard Chew, whose house is the adjoining semi, said: “I genuinely feel sorry for the people who move in there as they’re innocent in this. They’ll just be looking for a home and they’ll get blamed for the problems.
“But it’s the developer and the local planning department that are to blame.”
The residents claim that the impact on the adjoining semi would be “immense” and that it will disrupt the neighbourhood more generally.
They say that the renovation will result in an overload on an already dated sewage system while there was also no indication of a foul water drainage plan in the council report.
Other concerns are about extreme loss of light, overlooking into a family garden and road blockages.
Coun Andy Hodgson (Green) is one of the three ward councillors, all of whom opposed the plans.
He said: “If Solihull council had been proactive in providing housing for the people who’ll be living in this extension we’d probably never have seen the application.
“Our MPs need to realise that planning policy that lets developers build what they want, where they want, isn’t going to fix the housing crisis.”
Councillor David Bell, chair of Solihull council’s planning committee, said: “Members of Planning Committee recognised the level of local objection to the proposal, and acknowledged this specific point at Committee.
“However, as with many other planning applications, we have had to base our decision as a council on planning law and policy, not on whether residents want a development or not.
“The proposed two storey side extension was in itself no different to many permitted day in and day out in Solihull.
“The application stated that the house would however become a small house in multiple occupation (HMO).
“The Use Classes Order 1987 permits a dwelling house (Class C3) to change its use to a house of up to six residents (Class C4) without requiring planning permission.
“Therefore, as the Local Planning Authority we had no control on the part of the proposal to use of the property as a small HMO and this issue could not be considered when deciding this application.
“As a number of members chose to abstain from voting, and the vote was tied, I was required to exercise my “casting vote” responsibilities as chairman.
“Having concluded that there were no defendable planning reasons to object to the proposals, I stuck by my position to approve the matter in line with the planning recommendation.”