Minutes of the Meeting 6th February 2017
[All Actions to be taken from the meeting are shown throughout in bold]
Present (as recorded on attendance list):
Chris Taylor (Chair); David Hearn (Secretary); Cllr Emma Daniels; Tony Price (Chair Queens Park Community Association); Joyce Edmond-Smith; Lean Moore; Lesley Rooney; Annette Bell; Brian Ravenett; Dom Sabine; Brian Weaver; John Pomeroy; Patricia Smith; Andrew Smith; Chris & Della Roberts; Christine pepper; Ian Macintyre; John Woodington; Rob Bishop; Elaine Bishop; Daniel Carter; Adrian Darby; Laura Mullin; Philip & Julie Darnbrough; John. P Doherty; Jen Barton; Rebecca Foran (UofS); Clare Peace (UofS).
Guest Speakers: Cllr Tracey Hill – Council lead for Private Sector Housing; Liz Hobden – Planning BHCC; Martin Reid Licensing BHCC
N.B. attendees who do not ‘sign’ the attendance list are not recorded.
The Chair welcomed those present and introductions were made.
Cllr. Dick Page; Cllr. David Gibson.
- Minutes and matters arising:
Attendees accepted the minutes of the meeting of 7th November 2016.
- Joint Statement BusWatch – the Chair apologised for not submitting a joint statement with Tony Price at Queen’s Park Community Association. Tony provided an update that B&H Buses had introduced a new timetable for the buses in the area. 4 no. 21’s running now ran per hour but only 2 No. 21’s run into and served Whitehawk. The route of the 37B had been spared further cuts. There were no proposed changed to the route or timings of the No.18.
The meeting was further informed that a public consultation for Whitehawk residents was currently in progress to discuss issues affecting the area. The Chair agreed to feed into the consultation the recent information regarding the reduction in bus services serving the Whitehawk.
- HEGLAT contact details have been updated on website- feedback from residents was welcomed as to whether any further information was useful or could be updated further.
- The venue for the forthcoming AGM on 3rd April was scheduled to take place at the Hanover Pub. The option to locate future HEGLAT meetings in other venues across the ward would continue to be looked at.
- HMO Licensing and Planning
The Chair welcomed the guest speakers to address the meeting.
Martin Reid (Licensing) outlined the current situation re: licensing within the ward. He highlighted the Council’s approach to managing standards for both large HMO’s (7 persons or more) and smaller HMO’s (3 or more persons). He informed the meeting that the Council was about to consult on Additional HMO licensing citywide and introducing Selective Licensing in 12 wards in the city including all the Lewes Road wards. This would mean that all private rented properties would need a licence. Where this has been done before, more properties have been identified than previously known about, including HMO’s. Consultation on the scheme would begin later in 2017 and if approved, would begin in 2018.
Martin reported that the Council’s Licensing team and the Planning team work more closely together with HMO licence holders now getting more information about the Planning requirements, particularly large HMO’s, when they get a licence.
Martin’s team continue to focus their work on ensuring existing HMO’s meet all their licence conditions. Of the 496 registered smaller HMO’s licensed since the introduction of the register in 2012, around 80% of these have been checked to ensure they comply with the licence conditions.
This year his team were also due to refresh the Student Housing Strategy, which had not been updated since 2008. Here the plan was to review the regulatory measures in place; the impact of the programme of community initiatives that had taken place; how the universities were managing the issue of proliferation; and the identification of future sites for student housing.
Liz Hobden (BHCC Planning) reported that the City Council’s Planning Committee adopted the City Plan (Part 1) in 2016 which provided guidelines on the saturation levels (10%) for future HMO permissions. Unfortunately, HMO’s in situ 4 years or more prior to April 2013 can apply retrospectively for planning permission. The adoption of Article 4 introduced in April 2013, removed permitted rights that allowed houses to go to HMO’s and meant that the Council could enforce the planning enforcement guidelines more robustly for all new applications. Liz reported that the Council have been successful in arguing:
- HMO Licensing is the ‘bare minimum’. Each application is now judged individually, based on all possible future uses for the property, and the amount of communal space together with bedroom size is taken into account. This approach has now been upheld on appeal.
- The Council now condition the layout and number of people in all HMO permissions. So, if permission is granted for a maximum of 4 people, another application will be needed for more than four people to live there.
- Officers are considering refusing applications for certificates of lawfulness, if building works have already started which imply a change of use.
- Appeals have been dismissed on a number of recent applications in the HEGLAT ward with all properties licensed as HMO’s for the first time from the beginning of 2016 are being investigated. This is resulting in planning applications and enforcement notices. Examples included: 52 Barcombe Road, 17 Bernard Road, (HEGLAT wards), 25 Wheatfield Way and 63 Park Road in Coldean and Bevendean.
Liz also reported that the Council had been under resourced for some time but would be appointing to 2 vacant posts shortly together with one additional enforcement officer.
Cllr. Tracey Hill informed the meeting the efforts of both the Licensing and Planning Team had led to a rise in retrospective and current planning applications as HMO property holders were being required to obtain a HMO licence. Whilst the Council teams were working more proactively together to investigate properties, the Council could do little until an unlicensed HMO owner came forward and lodged an application. As a result, she encouraged residents to report incidences where they considered an HMO to be operating without a licence of an existing HMO being upgraded without permissions and to view the current Planning Register and provide their views of any applications currently being considered for their streets.
There is on-going cross-departmental work to be more joined -up about issues such as refuse. recycling/fly tipping and noise. There has been a reorganisation of council departments putting housing with neighbourhoods and communities under the same directorate, to enable more effective joined up working.
A number of questions were raised by those present, a summary of the points of discussions are provided below:How up to date is the current HMO register on the Council’s website?
Q. Does the current HMO register only lists those properties that hold a current HMO licence?
A. Where a license has expired, the Council may be processing the renewal and the property will be re-listed again once the application has been approved. As a result, there is likely to be a time lag between the license expiring and the property appearing again on the register.
Q. How do we notify the Council of potential properties we think are operating as HMO’s and are not on the register?
A. Residents should email email@example.com or PSH@brighton-hove.gov.uk marking the email with HEGLAT in the subject line.
Q.Can the Council improve the register to make it easier for residents to search for properties?
A.The Council is currently reviewing the current register to make it easier to search the details alphabetically, in street order.
Q.Why is the University placing adverts in local leaflets encouraging landlords and HMOP’s in the area?
A..The University places a number of adverts around the city to promote their Home-Stay services (up to two students living with a family during their stay) and seeking private property owners to take up the University’s offer to act as their letting agent. The University visits all the properties that it uses to ensure that the quality of accommodation provided to their students remains of a high standard.
Q.Is there a Good Landlord Scheme and if not why?
A. The Council have considered a scheme in the past and whilst it might appear useful, as it is a voluntary scheme it remains unenforceable. The current details on the HMO register ensures that landlords and letting agents, where they manage the properties, are highly visible should any enforcement matters need to be investigated. The City Council publish more data on property ownership/management than other Council’s like Birmingham and Manchester, and need to be mindful of the limitations and challenge of the information presented as part of the Data Protection legislation. Officers consider that the system of enforcement and planning appears the most effective way of ensuring landlords and properties remain well managed.
Q. Whilst the Council are winning a number of appeals at the moment, on what grounds are you losing these?.
A. The Council are confident of winning appeals at the moment. The challenge comes when an application is made in low density areas as the threshold (10%) guidance is sometimes difficult to apply as the impact can be arguably lower in lower density areas and more difficult to justify to the Planning Inspectorate.
Q. Are you notified of the sale of a property to alert you to the potential for conversion or new HMO application?
A. Our proactivity in this area is constrained by resources at present. Groups like HEGLAT can be very useful in feeding local information into the Council for follow up. Often local knowledge is invaluable in notifying the Council of recent changes.
Q. Is the Council given discretion to impose lower thresholds than the 10% in certain circumstances, where road conditions and proximity to neighbours is an issue, in Washington Street, for example?
A. The 10% threshold is the adopted policy that Planning Officers work to and as a result, it is difficult to enforce controls below this. Nationally 10% is the lowest threshold recognised as reasonable by Planning Inspectors. The Planning team are looking at the option of extending the 10% ruling from houses within a 50m radius to 150 metres and a report will be presented to Committee to discuss this.
Q. What is the implication if Selective Licensing is adopted in 2018?
A. Under these conditions, any rented property across the city would need a licence.
The Chair concluded the discussion and thanked the speakers for their input to the meeting which was well received by those present. As a result of requests from the floor, he agreed to publish the details of the proposed email residents should use to contact the Council if they have concerns around HMO’s in their areas. The preferred email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Parking Consultation Update
The Chair provided an update to the recent Parking consultation. The Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee (ETS) would meet on March 14th to discuss the results of the consultation. During the consultation, Council Officers visited a number of streets and spoke to residents who had specific concerns about the designs and some alterations were made as a result. All residents would continue to be able to make comments on the final design of any scheme, should it be approved, during the 21-day period when the Regulatory Traffic Orders are published.
Cllr Daniel informed the meeting that residents can lodged comments with the Committee in three ways:
- Present a Question
- Send a Deputation -statement
- Submit a Petition
Residents should forward details no later than one week prior to the meeting by sending information to email@example.com , in the Council’s Democratic Services department.
Residents are also welcomed to attend Committee. The meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday March 14th at Hove Town Hall, at 4pm
A number of residents were critical of the approach taken by the Council in a number of areas, for instance, permitting students in the Southover Street Halls of Residents to have a vote, the inappropriate street design enabling access to the Church for funeral services in Washington Street, and some uncertainty about what changes had been agreed with residents in a number of streets after their particular discussions with officers.
One resident reported that it appeared possible to submit a number of submissions to the on-line portal by updating and returning previous forms. He wondered whether this was a fault within the system? Another reported that, following the receipt of the postcard sent by the Council, detailing the error in the omission of double yellow lines on the maps of the scheme designs, the number published to be used to request a change to the voting, when called, went to answerphone. An out of office message continued to be played beyond the closing date of the consultation.
The Chair thanked residents for the information which he offered to feedback to Charles Field in the Parking Team.
- LAT Chairs Meeting Update
The Chair feedback his report following a recent LAT Chairs meeting that heard from the Sussex Police Commissioner, Katie Bourne.
The Chair reported that all LAT Chairs, without exception, reported concerns with the proliferation of drug dealing and related offences in their areas.
The Police Commissioner updated the meeting with the rationale for the changes to Policing within Sussex and the strategy and forward plan. The Chair reported that he challenged the Commissioner’s approach providing feedback on the reduction in PCSO’s numbers city wide and the particular loss felt by HEG residents in terms of community policing. The meeting welcomed the feedback.
Cllr Daniel reported that, on a positive note, the police had recently been successful in targeting drug activity across the city with a report of 13 arrests which they hoped would start making a difference to local residents.
- Communal bins – Cllr. Daniel reported that a follow up meeting with the resident in Washington St. was scheduled to review progress.
- Part of Tinnitus Awareness Week – Action on Hearing Loss will be running a drop-in session in the Resource Room in the Mayor’s Parlour where you can find out about assistive equipment that could help you. Those interested the date is 8th February 2pm-4pm.
- Keep Britain Tidy Group – Great British Spring Clean – Friday 3rd – Sunday 5th March. HEROES Wanted.
- Sussex Police Counter-Terrorism Awareness Evening Wednesday 1st March – contact the Chair for information. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Hanover Action (HASL) – work was continuing on developing the approach to planters, bike sheds and looking at recycling bins on streets.
- Agenda item for future meeting – standard of street lighting in the area.
- HEGLAT AGM 3rd April – required residents to vote for HEGLAT Chair and Secretary for the forthcoming year. As both the current Chair and Secretary would be retiring. Interested residents could find out what was involved by contacting Chris Taylor at email@example.com.
7. Date of Next Meeting Monday 3rd April – AGM – Election of Chair and Secretary.