Back to the drawing board for Labour and Tories?

As many of you have already realised the Government’s recent announcements on shared housing will have a massive effect on landlords stretching beyond the usual debates about ‘HMOs’. It’s been great to see how many landlords have responded to our campaign to get the issue raised. Now that the Conservatives have published their planning ‘green paper’ it is worth taking a moment and comparing the two.

Labour is using secondary legislation (which will not need a debate in the Commons) to change planning definitions. In the plain speak the upshot is that all shared homes – two or more people forming two or more households – will be classed as HMOs in planning and require planning permission. The Government has been at pains to say that this will not be retrospective and will only affect new shared housing.

This move is obviously to placate local resident groups who constantly worry about ‘pack ‘em in’ HMOs or student ‘ghettos’. But, crucially, it won’t tackle the problems that communities are really worried about anti-social behaviour, litter collection or crime.

Any landlord who rents property to people who aren’t related should be watching carefully. If the Government are not careful they will have created a system where landlords will hop in and out of needing planning permission as they switch between a couple sharing and two friends! Here at NLA towers we’re not convinced that local authorities are really prepared for that sort of volume of work. The problem is that shared housing is once again getting lumped in with the different and difficult issue of HMOs.

Over on the other side, the Conservatives’ new planning green paper confusingly talks about ‘Open Source planning’. We’re still trying to work out what this actually means but the nub of it sounds like ‘localism’. For landlords that will be a double-edged sword. The NLA would support the presumption that people can use land and buildings for any purpose without needing planning permission, however it is obvious that the way these ‘local plans’ are decided will be crucial. They will “…allow councils to specify in their local plan the kinds of se they are content to permit…” So you could still have local plans that, in effect, say “no shared housing here please”.

Worst still if “…more than a small minority of residential neighbours in the immediate vicinity…” raise an objection then it all has to all be formally assessed by the local planning authority. Given how vague ‘more than a small minority’ and ‘ immediate vicinity’ are, this looks like a dream ticket for any ‘nimby group ‘who decide they don’t like the look of your development.

In trying to please residents, local authorities, councillors, etc, etc both parties are in danger of pleasing no one. Both parties should go back to the drawing board.

URGENT ACTION NEEDED NOW: to challenge the changes to the planning system outlined by the Government, click here: www.landlords.org.uk/campaigning/planning.htm?dm_i=11G,3I8L,28WCD,AXP7,1

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