Last year, a planning application to convert the former Tofts Building at 60 Bernard Street into a 17 unit student accommodation block provoked a lot of local opposition. Nick and Mary campaigned against it, but before it went to Planning Committee it was thrown out by planning officers. The applicant appealed to the Welsh government planning inspectorate. The Inspector upheld the Council’s decision, supporting the original reasons: parking and design issues.
But the great news doesn’t stop there …
The Inspector quoted the Council’s HMO policy in their decision, even though the proposed development wasn’t strictly classed as a HMO.
This means that the new policy is working – not only in straightforward HMO cases, but in other situations where it clearly shows any Inspector what we’re trying to achieve and helps us to refuse developments that we feel would harm the area. It has been tested in two recent appeals, the other being a proposed HMO at 214 St Helen’s Road, in which the Council’s refusal has been upheld and the community protected. And of course it is being used to refuse HMOs that aren’t bothering to appeal.
Opposition ‘Uplands’ councillors campaigned against this policy; saying it would not limit HMO growth enough to be useful.
The policy could have been enacted in July 2017. The planning committee rejected it in the face of active lobbying led by ‘Uplands’ councillors. This left the council with no HMO policy for 18 months, during which 40 more HMOs were approved in our neighbourhood, and more elsewhere in Swansea which the policy could have stopped.
Hopefully, the ‘Uplands party’ will reflect on the way they have mishandled the HMO issue. HMO growth has been the cause of much community tension in recent years. Rather than seizing the opportunity for cross-party co-operation for the good of the area, collaborating on a constructive policy that would stand up to appeals, they have taken an oppositional stance, making the people of Uplands feel angry, frightened and victimized by the council, with tasteless claims of a ‘Berlin wall’ separating Uplands from the rest of Swansea.
The Labour Council has worked hard to deal with this issue, bringing in a workable, lawful and effective policy to limit HMO growth. We continue to discuss the issue with the local Labour AMs, who are keen to reduce HMO numbers to make Uplands a more cohesive and balanced community.