Fears for primary school as march of the HMOs reaches Bevendean

Posted On 23 Jun 2016 at 2:50 pm

Fears have been raised that a clutch of new student houses in a Brighton suburb could spell trouble for its primary school.
Bevendean Primary School
In the past six months, three applications have been made to convert family homes in just one road, Plymouth Avenue, Bevendean, into houses of multiple occupation (HMOs), typically used by students.

There are already two registered HMOs in the street, with residents saying they have reported several more unauthorised shared houses to the council, while in neighbouring streets Auckland Drive and Heath Hill Avenue, there are yet more.

While residents fear a concentration of student housing could lead to commonly raised issues such as loud parties and poorly managed refuse, their main concern is for undersubscribed Bevendean Primary School, which could face falling pupil numbers – and therefore funding – if family homes continue to be turned into student housing.

Meanwhile, the area has just lost its surgery after private healthcare provider The Practice Group pulled out of five Brighton surgeries, including The Practice at The Willows in Heath Hill Avenue.

Council repairs

That surgery had already been under threat from a threatened rent hike from its landlord, who has permission to build a block of purpose-built student rooms on the site.

Resident Drew Bolton said: “We are passionate about trying to keep the estate as a family estate and the developers know that planning can’t keep up with it and are going against the rules and regulations, and then going to appeal.

“My main concern is that that school will struggle. I was told by people that have children that the school is undersubscribed and if there’s not enough family homes, there won’t be enough children.

“Two of my friends have tried to buy homes as first-time buyers in the last year and both have been outbid by developers.”

The Willow surgery in Bevendean

The Willow surgery in Bevendean

Mr Taylor said that one family living in the street moved out last year after continued issues with one student house, to which police were called out to late night parties more than once, and where 80 bin bags were left in the garden.

Another resident, Jayne Van Rensburg, said: “The Friends of Farm Green are working extremely hard to raise funds to improve the play area in Bevendean, but what is the point if the council continue to grant HMOs on every other house?

“There will be no families here. It’s already too expensive to rent a family house as greedy landlords cash in on students. It’s destroying our community and needs to stop.”

And another, objecting to one of two new applications, said: “In recent years I have seen a massive change. There are fewer children, evidenced by the local primary school reporting ever decreasing applications received for their new intake and resulting in the nursery shutting half of the week from September 2015 due to lack of numbers.

“I understand that if this trend continues the school will be forced to adopt a single form intake and therefore will have surplus teaching and support staff resulting in redundancies.”

Bevendean is already part of the area covered by special planning rules which means both small and large shared houses need planning permission, which will not be granted if more than 10 per cent of houses in a 50-metre radius are already HMOs.

Councillor Daniel Yates

Councillor Daniel Yates

Number 2 Plymouth Avenue, a three-bedroom bungalow, was granted permission to operate as a three-bedroom HMO last year, and since then substantial extension works have started.

A survey then found there were already 7 per cent HMOs in the 50m radius around the address. It will therefore be difficult for the owner of the house next door, which is now also the subject of an HMO application, to get planning permission as number 2 means there are now 11 per cent in a 50m radius. To date, 15 people have objected to the plans.

Meanwhile, the owner of number 2, George Birtwell, has also applied for permission to convert number 51 into an HMO, with supporting documentation showing that there are currently no licensed HMOs in a 50m radius – although neighbours argue there is at least one unauthorised one and another lies just outside the 50m boundary.

Mr Birtwell’s consultants Lewis and Co said: “Some roads in Moulsecoomb and Bevendean and other areas around the two universities have become over-concentrated with HMOs serving the large student population of Brighton and Hove.

“In the interests of maintaining balanced and healthy communities the council’s intention is to spread HMOs across these areas so roads are not saturated by this type of housing.

“However, the council also recognises the importance of HMOs in the housing stock as they provide an important and affordable type of accommodation for many of the city’s residents.

“While it is probable future tenants of the shared house would be students due to the proximity of the house with the universities it would be unreasonable to assume this would bring noise and disturbance, especially as the house has three bedrooms and therefore caters for a small group.”

Moulsecoomb and Bevendean ward councillor Daniel Yates said: “The ward has always been affected by HMOs and that pressure appears to be moving out into areas which haven’t traditionally been affected. Because property prices are still comparatively low in Bevendean and rents are still relatively high, it gives developers the chance to get in there and become part of the 10 per cent.

“People in Bevendean have seen the impact that HMOs have had in other parts of the city and they’re also concerned about Bevendean Primary School and the loss of more school places. Applications are already quite low because there are more older people here than there were 20 years ago.

“The community has just lost The Willows surgery and the last thing they want to lose is the school. It’s not at risk at the moment but if HMOs start to proliferate around Bevendean then that will put school numbers at risk.”

Bevendean Primary School declined to comment.

The subject is due to be discussed at a meeting of the Bevendean Local Action Team (LAT) at 6.30pm on Monday (27 June) in the church hall in Norwich Drive.

  1. Rhiannon Daniel Reply

    This is a good piece of journalism, thorough, straightforward, informative and contains no propaganda! thankyou.

  2. Rhiannon Daniel Reply

    Also, the Council is aware of this issue, it was discussed at one of the rolling Labour Party meetings in The Bevy pub a couple of months ago. I live in Widdicombe Way, this year there have been virtually no parking issues with students, thankfully, and there are very, very few parties or noise issues, the main problem seems to be the long term change in the demographic which may as the piece says, negatively affect the infrastructure. Unfortunately we need to decide where the line is between people legitimately attempting to create an income by becoming landlords, and seriously negative impact on the community, but we have to remember, if this is to become a Student Community that is what happens in a free market!

  3. Phyllis Stephens Reply

    Both Bevendean and Coldean were buil after the war to accomodate families. They were built with plent of space and large gardens with plenty of outdoor space for children to run around in. There should be a lower than 10% limit on HMO’S IN 50m radius in these areas, not more.These homes are not meant forgreedy landlords to take advantage of to cram in as many students as they can.

    • Jane Reply

      Here, here!
      I’ve just read through all the comments and I’m staggered that no one’s yet directly stated that these houses are mainly former council houses, built with our money, sold off for cheap and surprise, surprise ending up being sold on to landlords to rent out for doing next to nothing whilst making a fortune!
      I suspect also many people don’t realise that the current Tory government intends to force local councils to sell off their remaining higher value (better) council houses as they become vacant, to use the money to compensate housing associations because those associations have chosen to sell their own houses too (yeah daft isn’t it, particularly in Brighton and Hove where there’s more or less nowhere left for housing associations to build in order to replace what they’re selling). These better council houses are exactly what’s left in areas like Bevendean, so you can see where that’s heading.
      A big part of this problem is that expansion of the two Universities is totally out of hand, uncontrolled and over concentrated in this area, and the accommodation they are building for their students doesn’t address the problem of youngsters wanting to live off campuses after their first year, and greedy vulture landlords being effectively enabled by few regulations to make a killing from these students’ short term housing needs. Residents are right to be alarmed, because it won’t be long before we could be looking back on these days as the good times.
      Phyllis is right, the 10% limit on HMOs in a 50m radius needs to be much lower if we are serious about containing this problem.

  4. Micky Reply

    HMOs cover all sharers not just students. Assume many of these families have kids that may want to house share in the future and HMOs restrictions like parking permits will keep pushing into new areas with these silly caps. Brighton has much higher than 10% young people so go figure. cheap labour will attract more young people needing to share, they want to be in the centre but computer says NO. Moaning NIMBY parents will be moaning again when their own anti social kids can’t get a house share coz the 10% rule and increasing population has cut supply and increased rents. Be careful what you wish for. Socialist control freaks never work.

    • MBG Reply

      Absolutely – many young working people in the city live in HMOs, it is certainly not just students. People cannot afford to rent flats of their own, so have to share a house, sometimes with strangers. This is now the norm for young people, whether they go to university or not.

      Anybody with a teenager growing up should be aware that trying to restrict HMOs, means restricting where their child can live in the future.

  5. Paul Reply

    Micky not sure you are correct. If you purchase a house with multiple people you do not need a HMO. I don’t think anyone is saying get rid of all Student HMO properties, but when it’s effecting the fabric of communities including potential redundancies at local schools etc then something needs to be done

  6. Jackie Reply

    A lot of students do not leave the surrounding areas clean look at the avenue overflowing bins black sacks of rubbish anywhere students can’t be bothered to bag the rubbish up properly .GArdens are overgrown landlords don’t care can’t even pay someone to tidy them although they get lots of rent ,noise from them also transport will be overflowing buses and more cars has some students have rich parents

  7. RORO Reply

    Welcome to my world! We live in Buller Rd which is local to Bevendean and 60% of our road is HMO. The noise, the drunken disruption, the rubbish strewn pavements seriously impacts on the few remaining families there are left. Over the years I’ve watched many families forced to leave due to lack of sleep and stress. Most landlords including the one who owns next door to us don’t care a jot about the impact on us and trying to get support from elsewhere such as the Universities is patchy to say the least. Uncared for landlord properties also keep our house prices down.

  8. RORO Reply

    I lived in shared housing for two decades when I was younger. The problem isn’t shared houses per se, it’s the lack of responsibility for unruly students, no one is taking responsibility for the disruption, the overgrown gardens, the garbage. Many students are of course lovely but one houseful with the wrong attitude can make life hell for everyone else. Freshers in particular should be in halls for the first year and have some guidance on how to behave in the community/garbage/recycling/considerate parking etc ad infinitum. Landlords should be fined if they don’t take responsibility. Put simply the situation is tearing communities apart and nothing is being done about it, and we the indiginus have no recourse.

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