Lewisham Council announce further HMO planning restrictions
In March 2020, Lewisham Council implemented new House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) planning restrictions in the south of the borough.
The effect of the HMO Article 4 Direction was to remove permitted development rights to convert a single family property (use class C3) into a HMO with 3 to 6 occupants (use class C4) in the four council wards of Bellingham, Downham, Grove Park and Whitefoot. From that date, all new HMOs within the designated area require planning permission for a change of use.
Earlier this year, Lewisham Council commissioned a further HMO evidence review to investigate issues with HMOs in the borough.
According to the council’s latest research, they found a high and increasing demand for HMOs in the borough due to several factors including:
- a large and growing private rented sector;
- lack of affordable housing;
- a large and growing student population;
- welfare reforms impacting on residents who can only afford a room in a shared house;
- HMO planning restrictions in neighbouring boroughs; and
- higher rental yields for HMOs than single family dwellings.
Lewisham Council predict there are now 7,100 HMOs, most of which require licensing under the council’s mandatory HMO and additional licensing schemes.
The council noted high levels of anti-social behaviour in the vicinity of HMOs and increasing public concern on the adverse impact HMOs can have on the local community.
Planning policy guidance
The council’s Mayor and Cabinet report presented in July 2022 noted the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requirements that use of Article 4 Directions must be:
“‚Ä¶limited to situations where this is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area [and]‚Ä¶be based on robust evidence, and apply to the smallest geographical area possible.“
Having considered this guidance, the report recommended that HMO planning restrictions should still be extended borough wide, subject to consultation.
The report noted the cost of making this second non-immediate HMO Article 4 Direction should cost no more than £1,000.
Cllr Brenda Dacres, Lewisham Cabinet Member for Housing Development and Planning, said:
“It’s really important that our planning system works for Lewisham and reflects the needs of the borough. Protecting local high streets and controlling the growth of HMOs are both key priorities for local residents – that’s why we’re taking action to address these issues.“
Public consultation has already ended
According to the council’s website, a public consultation on the proposed HMO Article 4 Direction was carried out between 30 September and 5 December 2022.
The website indicates comments could be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to: Strategic Planning Team, Lewisham Council, 4th floor, Civic Suite, Catford SE6 4RX.
As the consultation has already ended, it is possible that any further comments will not be taken into account.
The council will now consider any representations received before deciding whether to confirm the HMO Article 4 Direction. Subject to confirmation, it is expected to come into force on 30 September 2023.
The changes are not retrospective and changes from planning use class C3 to C4 within the new designated area remain permitted development until that date.
No decision yet on selective licensing
From 21 January to 20 May 2022, Lewisham Council consulted on proposals to implement a selective licensing scheme covering all private rented properties borough wide, except for the Blackheath and Telegraph Hill council wards.
Most HMOs already need licensing under the council’s mandatory HMO and borough wide additional licensing schemes.
Due to the size of the proposed selective licensing scheme, it cannot be implemented without government approval. To date, no further update has been provided. If a scheme is approved, it is unlikely to start before April 2023.
A free guide containing more information about property licensing, including a link to the current and proposed HMO Article 4 Directions in the London Borough of Lewisham is available here.
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