A mixed outcome for Uplands at the last Planning Committee meeting. The application to turn the former Twizzle Lodge into an 8 unit student accommodation block was approved, despite the objections of many residents and representations made by councillors. Cllr Mary Sherwood spoke against the proposal. Uplands’ Labour councillors always regarded the application, in this and its previous form, as flawed and believed that it should have been thrown out. The good news was that the proposal to turn the former Bryn Road Vicarage into two HMOs was refused on the grounds that Bryn Road was suffering from HMO over-density, Cllr Mary Sherwood speaking against the proposal at the committee meeting after the application was ‘called in’ by Cllr Mary Sherwood and Cllr Nick Davies. However, the other two HMO applications on Hawthorn Avenue and King Edward Road were approved.
The difficulty is that the authority doesn’t have any robust legal basis to refuse applications as we have no Supplementary Planning Guidance, the draft SPG being rejected last year. The planning committee which has voted to approve applications has been criticised by some residents, but if those members who vote to approve are the same members who voted to approve the SPG last year, they are simply aware of the proper legal context in which they cast their vote and of the authority’s vulnerability to legal challenge. On the other hand, those members who voted down the draft SPG need to square this with also voting to reject HMO applications when such a rejection will very likely be overturned on appeal, because of a lack of an SPG. It is also important to note that planning committee votes are not whipped on political lines. Members have to vote on the merits of the application in strict planning terms, not on party lines.