Birmingham councillor says ‘we haven’t given up on Selly Oak area’ during HMO debate

A generic picture of Selly Oak
-Credit: (Image: Nick Wilkinson/Birmingham Live)

A Birmingham councillor has insisted that they have not 'given up' on the popular student area of Selly Oak after HMO proposals sparked a debate. The plans sought consent for the proposed change of use to a six-bedroom HMO in a vacant property in Raddlebarn Road and were considered by the planning committee last week.

A council officer’s report, published prior to the meeting, noted that there was already a “high concentration” of HMOs within this area of the city, which is close to the UOB campus. “This area has seen a significant change over the years from family housing to HMOs for student accommodation,” it continued.

This was brought up as a concern during the meeting but the plans were ultimately refused over the "loss of amenity to adjacent premises" and the fact it would result in a "family dwelling being sandwiched between two properties in use as HMOs". Prior to that decision, councillor David Barker questioned why the plans had been recommended for approval in the report.

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“It seems the justification is we’ve already approved so many, we’ve already kind of given up on the area,” he said. “I couldn’t work out what the reasoning really was and I think it’s a mistake.”

Cllr Martin Brooks, chair of the planning committee, said he personally didn’t see it as “giving up” on an area. “It is clear it is an area of HMOs,” he said.

“I suspect this size and kind of house lends itself to HMO use. To me, it seems clear it’s an acceptable use.

“It’s not a question of giving up but recognising that area has changed and it’s a different area to what was there before". Louise Robinson, area planning manager, went on to provide further clarification as to why the proposals had been recommended for approval.

“In normal circumstances, when we’re looking at applications for HMOs, if it’s more than 10 per cent in an area, then that can be a reason for refusal,” she said. “Within a 100 metres of the application site, there are already 75 per cent of the properties in use as a HMO.

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“The policy is quite clear that there can be exceptional circumstances if the character of an area has already changed and is predominantly HMOs - is that additional HMO actually going to change the character of an area?”

The report also highlighted that the “overriding character” in the street was that of student households rather than family dwellings. “The agent has advised that the property was marketed originally as a family dwelling,” it went on to say.

“However, there was no interest in letting the property for this use due to the size, location and rental cost as a family home. Given this situation, the property is currently vacant and the applicant is looking to use it as a student rental given the high level of demand in the area.”

Despite the council officer's report recommending approval, the planning application was refused by the committee during the meeting. The reason for refusal was later given as: “The proposed change of use of the building to a six bedroom HMO would contribute to a loss of amenity to adjacent premises and would result in a family dwelling being sandwiched between two properties in use as houses in multiple occupation.”

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