Armley: Disappointment as landmark shared housing decision is overturned

Plans for a HMO in a family home in Conference Road were refused by councillors in July. Photo: Google Maps/Street View

A landmark decision to refuse planning permission for a shared house in Armley has been overturned by an independent Government planning inspector.

Developer White Owl Properties Ltd appealed after Leeds City Council refused planning permission to turn a four-bedroom family terrace house in Conference Road into a house of multiple occupation (HMO) for four people.

The council said the application would alter the character of the area, would affect community cohesion, cause parking problems and would lead to the loss of a family home. The decision was hailed as a landmark when it was made last October.

But planning inspector Andrew McCormack has overturned the council’s decision and granted permission for White Owl to go ahead with their plans.

The inspector ruled ‘very limited harm’ would be ‘outweighed by the benefits’ of the HMO:

“The proposed change of use would have no material impact on the overall housing balance in the area and no visual impact on the external appearance of the appeal property.

“Furthermore … the proposal would have no adverse effect on the demand for on-street parking in the area and would not result in any related highway safety issues.

“I find that the property is situated in a well-connected area which does not have a high concentration of HMOs. Therefore its impact on the character of the area in terms of its use will be very limited and, in my view, the proposal would help to meet a significant demand for this type of housing in Leeds.”

Conference Road resident Samantha Stewart, who had opposed the initial application, said she was ‘gutted’ by the decision and called for more powers to be given to communities over these kind of decisions. She also expressed concerns that developers who had recently been refused permission as part of a council crackdown on HMOs in Armley may also now appeal.

Cllr Alison Lowe Armley
Objection: Cllr Alison Lowe

Cllr Alison Lowe (Lab, Armley) vowed the fight would continue against more HMOs in Armley which she said were typically made up of single men, rather than families. She said:

“Planning legislation is weighted in favour of developers and does not take into account local communities, their wishes and their needs.

“Families who use local services and contribute to the community are being squeezed out of Armley, which broadly speaking is bad for the area.

“On a local level we will continue to fight against the loss of family homes. Some we will win and others we won’t, but we will defend against every single one. We may have lost this battle but the fight will go on.”

She said pressure needed to be put on the Government nationally to change legislation so it was less weighted against communities, otherwise ‘Armley will end up being one giant HMO’. She felt changes to legislation under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition seven years ago weighted legislation against residents.

Conference Road applicant Sara Poskitt argued that she and her partner Sam Waterworth owned six properties between them and never had any noise problems with tenants. Ms Poskitt said that, as a responsible landlord, tenants were always vetted, unemployed and DSS were not allowed and strict checks were in place.

Read the planning inspector’s decision in full here:

20 Conference Road – HMO Appeal Decision by John Baron on Scribd

Earlier this month a shared house application for Brooklyn Place was refused permission, mainly due to the ‘intensive’ use of the property. Similar plans in Barden Grove were also refused late last year.

A HMO is a house – typically a large family home – which has been converted entirely into bedsits or other ‘non-self-contained’ accommodation, often aimed at single people. More details here.


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