In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Response from B&NES Council

I spoke at the June Cabinet meeting of Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) Council, questioning the Article 4 Direction policy, which was subsequently activated across the city of Bath. I have received the following response from David Trigwell, Divisional Director of Planning and Transport Development at B&NES Council:

The Local Planning Authority is grateful for all of the consultation responses received in relation to the Article 4 Direction and Supplementary Planning Document consultations and has taken the comments raised on board in its deliberations. See the consultation reports Appendices C & D to the June Cabinet paper for details of the responses and key issues highlighted which have been considered.

As outlined in the Houses in Multiple Occupation Supplementary Planning Document (Appendix A to the 12 June Cabinet report), the Council will be monitoring HMOs in the City closely to understand the impact of the Article 4 Direction – we will be updating our map with areas of over 25% HMO every 6 months to ensure that we can track the levels of HMO across the City including any dispersal effects. This map will be available online at www.bathnes.gov.uk.

The council’s pledge to “closely” monitor the effects of this Article 4 Direction is welcome. My submission to the first consultation focussed on rebutting the main arguments in favour of this planning policy. According to the consultation’s responses, residents seem more concerned with property standards and tenant behaviour, but the Article 4 Direction only regulates the number and location of HMOs.

B&NES Council held a stool on the Supplementary Planning Document and HMO Licensing at the University of Bath Students' Union. (Photo: B&NES Council)

B&NES Council held a stool on the Supplementary Planning Document and HMO Licensing at the University of Bath Students’ Union. (Photo: B&NES Council)

Primary Question

My speech’s primary question was unanswered by Mr Trigwell because it is not in the purview of B&NES Council officers – it is for councillors to determine the council’s political priorities. A response was given by Cllr Will Sandry (Lib Dem, Oldfield) in the meeting:

We will know when this works on the 1st July 2013, and that will be the day when we will stop investors coming to Oldfield Park, and buying up the properties and turning them into Houses of Multiple Occupation. They don’t even buy the houses and rent them to a family or a couple or an individual; they are completely focussed on changing Oldfield Park and the surrounding area into a high density of Houses of Multiple Occupation.

The prevention of new HMOs in specified areas is one of many effects of an Article 4 Direction, including distortions to house sale prices and rental prices. The maintenance of balanced communities, which is a stated aim of B&NES Council, cannot be achieved through an Article 4 Direction, as it ossifies the imbalanced housing distribution in activated areas. Moreover, community balance is not just concerned with housing classifications; it concerns different types of households. B&NES Council found that 40% of the city’s HMOs were not used by students, so these HMOs are housing young professionals, temporary workers and other tenants. Given this morass of consequences, judgement on the success or failure of an Article 4 Direction must include criteria other than the absence of investors from Oldfield Park.

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