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Council Leader unhappy with ‘unelected’ planning inspectors decision on HMOs

THE leader of Swansea Council said it was “wrong, wrong, wrong” for “unelected” planning inspectors to overrule council decisions on houses of multiple occupation (HMOs), when those decisions abided by the rules.

Cllr Stewart was speaking at a cabinet meeting in which a draft HMO licensing policy, including specific measures for St Thomas, Uplands and the city centre, was approved.

Two Welsh Government-appointed planning inspectors have recently upheld appeals by developers who wanted to convert properties in Port Tennant and Mount Pleasant into HMOs.

The council had originally turned them down, on the basis of what it felt were solid planning policy grounds aimed at limiting HMO spread.

Deputy council leader Clive Lloyd said this week that he was “absolutely outraged” by the Port Tennant decision, and was given full support at the cabinet meeting by his boss.

Cllr Stewart said he felt the new HMO planning policies were being “dismantled” by “unelected inspectors from Cardiff”.

He added: “We intend to pursue this strongly.”

Both planning inspectors set out their reasons for allowing the appeals in their decision reports.

The draft HMO licensing policy is aimed at improving standards and living conditions of shared houses, which are used by various groups as well as students.

There are currently around 2,200 HMOs across the city. Around 1,760 of them are licensed.

It is compulsory for HMOs of three storeys or more that have five or more occupiers to be licensed.

In Swansea there is an additional licensing scheme for HMOs in Uplands and Castle – a city centre ward. Under the draft policy this will now apply to St Thomas, but only after a 10-week consultation and a three-month period of notice.

Cllr David Hopkins said the new policy would be self-financing, and added: “It has been on the agenda for some time.”

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