Ocean Road guest house to become HMO after planning inspector rules in favour of plans for South Shields building

Plans to convert a former South Shields guest house into a house in multiple occupation (HMO) have been approved by a Government-appointed planning inspector.

Back in October 2020, a planning application was registered with South Tyneside Council to change of use of the Aquarius Guest House at 61 Ocean Road.

The plans from applicant Whittaker Mills Investments Ltd included a change of use to a nine-bedroom HMO.

South Tyneside Council’s planning authority is typically expected to publish a notice of decision on planning applications within a set time period.

The plans were approved for 61 Ocean Road.

In this case however, the applicant lodged an appeal as the council did not reach a decision within timescales, with the plans referred to the Planning Inspectorate.

Appeal documents from the applicant state that the council “failed to give notice of its decision within the appropriate period.”

Planning inspector John Dowsett was subsequently appointed by the government to rule on the application and a decision report was published on October 6 2021.

According to the planning inspector’s report, South Tyneside Council set out in its appeal submissions that, had it been in a position to determine the application, planning permission would have been refused.

This would have been on grounds related to increased parking demand and the “effect of the proposal on fear of crime in the locality” – with other issues also linked to European protected sites.

Despite the council’s representations, the planning inspector allowed the appeal and approved the Ocean Road HMO conversion.

In his report, it was noted that the building historically operated as a guest house with five bedrooms, with no evidence of dedicated parking, and that there were no formal objections from the council’s highway authority.

The planning inspector concluded that the development “would not cause harm to highway safety in the vicinity of the appeal site having particular regard to car parking provision.”

He also noted that there was a “perception of crime and antisocial behaviour in the area, which is attributed [to] the presence of other HMOs nearby and large numbers of HMOs in the surrounding area.”

However it was concluded the new HMO application would “not cause harm to the living conditions of nearby residents through fear of crime.”

The planning inspector’s report reads: “Whilst there is evidence that there is a certain, albeit low, level of reported crime in the area, from the evidence that I have, there is little in the way of a directly identifiable link between the instances of reported crimes and the presence of HMOs.”

Although the area is covered by a council ‘article four direction’ the report said the “principal driver’ for this was preventing the change of use of family dwelling houses to HMOs, rather than to “specifically address antisocial behaviour or the fear of crime.”

The planning inspector also concluded that the HMO would not have an “adverse effect” on protected nature sites.

As part of the appeal decision, a range of conditions were added to the planning permission for the HMO.

This included cycle storage facilities, bins being stored internally when not collected and the submission of a management plan.

A separate application from the appellant seeking costs against the council was also refused.

HMOs, which include more than one household living in the same property and sharing one or more basic amenities, are a controversial topic in South Shields.

Around a dozen recommendations were previously made to the council’s ruling cabinet suggesting schemes in a bid to improve the situation.

The full appeal decision report for the Ocean Road HMO can be found on South Tyneside Council’s online planning portal.

For more information, visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/35961/Search-planning-applications and search reference: ST/0840/20/FUL

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