Redbridge Council leader pledges to do 'everything he can' to stop HMO 'monstrosity' in South Woodford
PUBLISHED: 17:08 13 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:18 13 December 2018
Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal has pledged to make every effort to stop a former South Woodford vicarage and adjoining flats from being converted into a 24-person HMO.
Around 30 residents of Buckingham Road attended a meeting with the council’s planning department last night (December 12) in Redbridge Town Hall, in Ilford High Road.
As reported by the Recorder, around 100 neighbours gathered on Saturday (December 8) in protest outside number 49, 49a and 49b – formerly the Old Vicarage - which they fear is being converted into a complex of four HMOs.
“I will do everything I can to stop this monstrosity from being developed in our streets because I would not want this near me,” Cllr Athwal said at the meeting.
On Monday (December 10) he told the Recorder that “relaxed government planning laws” mean the council is almost “powerless” to stop the development.
But at the meeting he assured residents he would speak with his operational director of planning policy and planning enforcement to see what could be done.
He added: “I make no promises, but this goes against the spirit of our Local Plan.
“There must be something we can do to ensure the quality of living in Buckingham Road is not comprised for the residents.”
Among the attendees was resident John Dessauer, who said: “My overall impression is that this is an issue [the council] is prepared to fight until the bitter end.
“But how seriously we will be taken – we will have to find out.”
Protesters accuse the properties’ owners – which includes Ravi Bhanot, of High Road, Chigwell – of “playing fast and loose” with the need to obtain planning permission for a large HMO by first dividing number 49 into two homes.
They fear that “cramming” 24 people into the house will “destroy our community which is already overstretched”.
The property owners’ spokeswoman Karen Wray told the Recorder that they are working closely with the council on the plans to separate number 49, which have already been granted planning permission.
Ms Wray added: “A final decision has not yet been made whether we will then be selling them.”
Ravi Bhanot has been contacted for further comment.