Headlines: October 22nd, 2007

Nottingham City Council is leading calls for a change in the law that would give local authorities the power to limit the number of homes being converted for multiple occupation. The council is keen to tackle what it see as the problems caused by a proliferation of bed-sits and shared houses.

Elected members have agreed to lobby the Government and local MPs for a change in planning laws as a way to ensure local authorities can maintain a viable number of family homes in local communities. The councillors agreed that anyone wanting to convert a single house to multiple occupation should require planning permission.

They also want tighter planning controls on adding dormer windows to properties to create additional living space, and they are backing the campaign for a business tax on houses in multiple occupation with the money raised being made available to be spent locally.

Alan Clark, the city council’s portfolio holder for Neighbourhood Regeneration, explained, “Having a high proportion of houses in multiple occupation can have a detrimental effect on local communities. It increases waste, parking and noise. It can lead to communities becoming unbalanced and unsustainable, with schools, shops and other services closing or moving out in favour of late-night takeaways and video rental shops. But councils can’t prevent this because, in planning terms, they don’t have the legal powers to control the changes of a family home into a shared house.”

He added that councils were often frustrated by being denied the opportunity to look after the needs and interests of residents because necessary legislation was not in place. The council is already leading a national lobby of councils and councillors pressing for changes in planning and housing laws. It is calling for local authorities to be given powers to ensure areas do not become unbalanced through an influx of too many single people and students.