Disappointment after watchdog 'quashes' enforcement action against HMO, despite antisocial behaviour concerns

A Government watchdog has been slammed after it overturned enforcement action against a HMO in South Shields.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 10:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 1:13 pm
Councillors were not happy with the ruling

South Tyneside Council started proceedings in 2019, citing a ‘significant number of incidents of crime and antisocial behaviour’ connected to the property, in Seafield Terrace, and ordering it to stop operating as a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

But the Planning Inspectorate has ruled against the move and ordered it to be reversed.

“The council had concerns regarding obviously antisocial behaviour for a number of years and the lack of any formal grant of planning permission at the property,” said principal planning officer Peter Cunningham.

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“We served an enforcement notice and the Planning Inspectorate has basically quashed the notice, granted planning permission, subject to a management plan.

“It’s a shame we lost the appeal, but on the other hand we’ve now got planning permission with a management plan, which is an improved position where we were previously.”

Cunningham was speaking at a meeting of South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

The building provides accommodation for ‘vulnerable adults’, with the inspector’s findings claiming ‘it is the activities of some residents and some visitors that generate the incidents and crimes that are responsible for generating any fear of crime’.

But it added the ‘unauthorised use’ of the site was not to blame for this and accepted proposals for a management plan confirming details of staffing and other arrangements.

The building’s operator had previously applied for planning permission to ‘regularise’ its use, but this application was later withdrawn before council bosses could rule on it.

Several members of the planning committee criticised the inspector’s decision.

Cllr Geraldine Kilgour said: “I think the [appeal decision is] really disappointing.

“I take the point with regards to the management plan, but I think the residents nearby have had continual problems and I just hope that this works out for the benefit of everybody.”

Cllr Wilf Flynn added: “I appreciate it’s one specific application, but we still have an ongoing problem with HMOs.

“I don’t think we’re at the end [and] I’m concerned what effect this will have on future applications, because there is a reluctance to see a spread of HMOs.”

A Planning Inspectorate spokesperson said after the meeting: “Inspectors are independent and impartial.

"When making a decision the Inspector fully considers the evidence submitted at the appeal and takes account of current planning legislation, policy and guidance.”

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