Swansea council formally enrolled the new Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) to augment their policies in the Swansea’s Local Development Plan (LDP) back in February 2019.
The SPG provides decision makers with information to determine whether or not a proposed HMO development should be granted, and is based on three stress tests known as the ‘radius test’, the ‘small street test’, and the ‘non-sandwich test’, more information can be found on our previous article ‘Swansea Council Shackle the HMO Sector’ here; https://www.swansea4students.com/news/swansea-shackle-the-hmo-sector.html
These measures set out to prevent unacceptable concentrations of HMOs throughout Swansea and were undoubtedly going to limit the HMO growth, but to what extent was unknown.
It has now come to light that Swansea councils bid to prevent a recent HMO planning application to convert a house on Montpelier Terrace in Mount Pleasant into a seven-bedroom HMO on the basis that it failed the ‘Sandwich Test’ was overturned.
The owner of the proposed HMO disagreed with council’s perception that it would result in the neighbouring property being sandwiched between two HMOs and appealed their decision through the planning inspectorate which saw not only Swansea council’s decision overturned with the landlord’s application being successfully granted, but also saw the councils appeal for judicial review rejected.
It was originally perceived by the masses that the introduction of the SPG would provide the council with an arsenal of legislation to comfortably reject HMO applications, taking a firm grip on HMO developments.
So, what does it mean moving forward? Does this successful appeal mean HMOs will continue to grow in Swansea despite the council’s roadblocks?
Well, unfortunately it’s not as cut and dried as some would like. Any appeals that are raised with the Planning Inspectorate result in the appointment of an independent inspector to consider each appeal, with a Planning Inspectorate spokesperson stating they would "make their decision in line with the plan for the area unless there are material considerations that justify taking a different view" and that "This does not mean that they have disregarded the views of the local planning authority or local residents, rather that they have attributed different weight to the issues in coming to their decision," they said.
It means Swansea council’s LDP is not law, but rather a set of guidelines, that are in place to inform the general public, statutory authorities, and other interested bodies of the policy framework used to guide local development decisions. The outcome of such decisions are by no means set in stone, so for those HMO developers who’ve seen their applications rejected, it opens up another window of opportunity to appeal and have the decision independently reviewed by the planning incorporate, where ultimately their verdict appears to be somewhat final when you consider the council request for a Judicial review being rejected.
If you have recently had a HMO application refused by Swansea Council, then you can find more information on the Welsh Governments appeals process here; https://gov.wales/appeal-planning-decision