Wellington 'at risk of being swamped' by pub housing conversions
Housing converted from pubs and other business premises risk “overdeveloping” and “swamping” Wellington, town councillors have said.
Two separate applications to convert former pubs into flats were considered by Wellington Town Council’s planning committee last month, and members deferred commenting on them due to “insufficient detail”.
Councillor Dorothy Roberts said refits like these, and single flats above shops, seemed to be “enforced upon the town”, and her colleague Lisa Jinks said parts of Wellington were “becoming swamped with houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs)”.
Councillor Karen Tomlinson said HMO tenants sometimes felt vulnerable and unsafe.
Wellington Town Council agreed to invite Telford & Wrekin Council’s planning department to send an officer to its next meeting so it can form a policy on building use.
Planning committee chairman John Alvey presented minutes of its February 26 meeting to the full council. The document included details of a pre-application inquiry regarding converting The Lion, on Whitchurch Road, Wellington, into 14 self-contained flats, and a submitted application to refit the Lord Nelson Hotel, on nearby Park Street, into 10 apartments.
These two proposed projects are not HMOs, under the 2004 Housing Act. This says an HMO is a privately-let property “not consisting of self-contained flats” inhabited by two or more separate households sharing some facilities, such as a bathroom or kitchen.
The planning committee minutes say both sets of pub conversion plans contained “insufficient detail”. Members requested information about unit sizes from the applicant for the Lord Nelson Hotel fit, and said they would wait for The Lion application to be fully submitted before commenting.
Councillor Giles Luter asked whether the council needed to establish a standard approach to building use.
Councillor Jinks said the committee “wants to try to get to grips with what the rest of the council feel”.
She said: “Is it overdevelopment or what? That whole area is becoming swamped with HMOs.”
Councillor Tomlinson said Maninplace, a homelessness charity providing emergency, temporary and supported housing, has self-contained flats that are “much better” than HMO accommodation.
“Some people just don’t feel safe and very vulnerable, and shouldn’t be in those properties,” she said.
Councillor Roberts said Telford & Wrekin’s planning department, which has the power to grant or refuse planning permission, need to be involved in the debate.
“We absolutely need to have discussions with the powers that be, because we feel it is something being enforced on this town, and we don’t have any way of discussing it and finding out what’s going on.”
Councillor Lee Carter pointed out that HMOs are required to have inspections, including for fire and gas safety and need a licence from the local authority. Government regulations introduced in October 2018 impose this on all HMOs containing five people or more people.
“It’s when they are not HMOs, bizarrely, when they don’t have to be licensed, that the local authority doesn’t have control,” he said.