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APPROVED CONVERSION: Councillors hit out at HMO approval

APPROVED CONVERSION: Councillors hit out at HMO approval

61 Ocean Road, South Shields, Image: Google

Councillors have hit out after a government-appointed planning inspector approved converting a former South Shields guest house into a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

A decision report was published earlier this month from the national Planning Inspectorate approving the 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.

The applicant lodged the appeal over South Tyneside Council “failing to give notice of its decision within the appropriate period.”

The council’s Planning Committee this week was provided with an update on the appeal being allowed, with councillors hitting out at the decision made.

Cllr William Brady said: “People I know that have talked to me are horrified that this appeal went through, absolutely horrified.

“Right in the middle of Ocean Road, it’s the cream of our tourism industry over there and we’re going to open this.

“I hope that somebody is going to police that when it opens.”

Cllr Wilf Flynn added the decision from the government-appointed inspector goes against work the council is doing with its Place Select Committee.

The committee previously set up a commission to shine the spotlight on HMOs, due to concerns over anti-social behaviour and standards of support for some tenants in the private rented sector

Cllr Doreen Purvis, chair of the Planning Committee, added they have been “hamstrung” by the decision, which ultimately is down to the Government.

She said: “We’re just going to have to keep a watching eye over it but we’re hamstrung when the inspectors take these sorts of decisions.

“Unfortunately we are where we are with this, this is a Government matter which people should remember when going to the ballot box. “

However she did add it depends on who ends up living in the HMO, noting it is a “really, really difficult situation” and people have raised there is a need for single person accommodation in the area.

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”.

Cllr Purvis, speaking at the meeting, said the council making a decision “wouldn’t have made any difference to the outcome”, as an appeal likely would still have been lodged.

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.

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


Words: Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporter

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