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Campaigners call for swifter action on HMOs

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 January 2019

Around 100 protestors and Woodford MP Iain Duncan Smith gathered outside three Buckingham Road properties they fear are being converted into a complex of HMOs in December 2018. Photo: Adam Scott

Around 100 protestors and Woodford MP Iain Duncan Smith gathered outside three Buckingham Road properties they fear are being converted into a complex of HMOs in December 2018. Photo: Adam Scott

Archant

Redbridge Council must introduce new legal powers allowing it to control small house in multiple occupation (HMO) conversions immediately to avoid “rampant overdevelopment”, campaigners say.

Council enforcement officers found evidence of six people crammed into a small HMO, in Twyford Road, Clayhall without a legally required licence in October last year. Photo: Redbridge CouncilCouncil enforcement officers found evidence of six people crammed into a small HMO, in Twyford Road, Clayhall without a legally required licence in October last year. Photo: Redbridge Council

But Council leader Jas Athwal said that the soonest that an Article 4 direction, a regulation removing “permitted development” rights for small HMOs, can be introduced is December 2019 to avoid legal disputes.

South Woodford campaign group “Stop HMOs on Buckingham Road” released a statement on Sunday (January 6) urging residents to respond to a council consultation on the direction.

“It is important that as many people as possible write and express their concerns about why this article has not been adopted previously and supporting its immediate adoption, now and not the December 6,” it said.

“Such a delay would leave an open goal for HMO developers.”

Failing this, the campaigners also called on the council to place a “moratorium” on HMO conversions, temporarily halting them until the direction comes into effect.

Responding, Cllr Jas Athwal said: “We could either have forced the Article 4 through straight away on January 1st this year, which would have left the council exposed to legal challenges, or after 12 months as is the norm.

“A cross-party working group decided to opt for the latter because of the potential for legal challenges that could be presented to the local authority from housing developers for loss of earnings,” he said.

“It represented too significant a risk and politicians from all parties recognised that fact.”

He added: “We cannot introduce a moratorium because it is a government policy that we are looking to revoke, rather than an emerging policy that we want to introduce.”

“As much as our officers have tried to speed up this process, this is something we cannot overcome, but we have taken a raft of other measures to stop the proliferation from going ahead unabated.”

The council has increased the cost of the licence fee for HMO conversions from £500 to nearly £1,400 to prevent an “open season” on HMO conversions, Cllr Athwal said.

“This makes them less lucrative and the money is being put towards 12 new enforcement officers dedicated to monitoring and inspecting HMOs that we didn’t have before,” he said.

The consultation on the Article 4 Direction is open until January 31 this year.

Find out how to take part here.

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