A CAMPAIGN group seeking legal action to reverse the ‘studentification’ of a Chester neighbour- hood must go back to the drawing board.
The planning enforcement team has been investigating the illegal conversion of family homes into houses of multiple occupancy (HMO) in the university area after the intervention of the Garden Quarter Housing Action Group.
The group had passed on information about more than 100 properties where there were suspicions a house had been turned into an HMO without planning consent.
But senior planning officer Fiona Edwards of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “The enforcement team is working its way through them but it’s become apparent some will be lawful because of the length of time they have been a house of multiple occupation – a period in excess of 10 years.
“With others we will be asking for planning applications.”
She said the issue was not straight- forward as change-of- use planning consent was unnecessary if people living in a shared house were cohabiting as though in a single family unit, even if they were unrelated.
Mrs Edwards said it was possible to develop a local planning policy to control the escalation of houses of multiple occupation, as her former authority Ceredigion County Council had done, providing it was “reasonable in all aspects”.
Schemes are being developed to create more self-contained student accommodation to help disperse the large pockets of students living in HMOs to promote a mixed community in Garden Quarter and Canal Basin.
This includes a plan to convert the former Abbey Gate School into 128 student apartments.
The university also wants to create a student village on land it owns between Parkgate Road and the Deva Link Road. However, it is on a flood plain.
Mrs Edwards said: “They would have to carry out a full risk assessment and Environment Agency would have to be satisfied with that.”