Planning inspector backs council enforcement action against owners of two shared houses in Brighton

Two large student houses in East Brighton have fallen foul of planners after changes were made without permission.

The two properties were converted into seven-bedroom houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) despite being licensed for a maximum of five people.

As a result enforcement notices were sent to the owners of 1 and 3 Bristol Street by Brighton and Hove City Council.

The owner of 1 Bristol Street, DB Sussex Investments Ltd, run by Laura Dwyer-Smith and Andy Babbayan, and the owner of 3 Bristol Street, Dr Caroline Shulman, appealed against the enforcement notices.

But both appeals were rejected by planning inspector Diane Fleming.

However, DB Sussex Investments successfully appealed to keep the single-storey rear extension, rear dormer and two front roof lights at 1 Bristol Street.

The inspector’s report said that 1 Bristol Street was extended into a seven-bedroom property without planning permission.

The first HMO licence for the shared house was granted in 2008 for a maximum of five people.

In her report the inspector described the kitchen, dining room and attic bedroom as “insufficient”, lacking in space and, in the case of the bedroom, cramped.

She said: “The initial change to a small HMO would have altered the character of this area with more comings and goings from the property and patterns of behaviour different from typical occupants of a family dwelling.

“That change may have been minimal in terms of its impact or more significant but, over time, this change to the character of the area has been absorbed.

“However, it is my view that use by an additional two occupiers, while on paper appears insignificant, in reality has had an unduly harmful effect on the living conditions of neighbouring occupiers, having regard to noise and disturbance.”

Dr Shulman, the owner of 3 Bristol Street, also has a licence for five bedrooms.

The planning inspector’s report described it as a short-term student let and said that the size of the communal and kitchen space was “below minimal standard”.

Ms Fleming wrote: “Detailed evidence has been put forward to demonstrate the harmful effects of a large HMO use on the living conditions of third parties who all live in close proximity to the site.

“While it is not known whether all the evidence is directly attributable to the change of use that has occurred at the appeal site, as opposed to 1 Bristol Street, it is my view that it warrants considerable weight given the location of the third parties, the particular details of the evidence and the character of this residential area.”

Neighbours in the area that includes Bristol Street and Bennett Road presented a petition against more shared houses to the council’s Tourism, Development and Culture Committee last July.

Since putting their case, tougher licensing rules – known as Article 4 restrictions – have been extended to cover the whole of Brighton and Hove.

The tougher rules mean that a property cannot be used as a shared house if 10 per cent of homes within a 50-metre radius are already HMOs.

The council is considering even tougher restrictions as it prepares a set of policies for a planning blueprint known as City Plan Part Two.

  1. Michaela Reply

    As far as I know, Article 4 does not cover East Brighton, it has not yet been granted.

    We have a small committee in Bennett Road/Bristol Street and Princes Terrace who are fighting to get Article 4 coverage for this area to stop more of these small 2 or 3 bedroom terraced houses being turned into 5+ bedrooms HMO’s. The people who have to live next door to the HMO’s are not happy.

  2. Tony Reply

    This is fantastic news. These houses were not designed to house so many people. The objections presented were thorough and factual and have helped influence the objections. The existing tenants are really great folks, but as the article states, it is future use that could be troublesome and this has now been prevented. Perhaps people like Shculman will think twice about riding roughshod over planning legislation in future and seek permission before creating unsuitable accommodation at great cost to themselves.

  3. Richard Gray Reply

    In the interests of balance, I have to say that the HMO at 5 Bennett Road houses exemplary tenants. We have zero problems with noise, traffic or refuse. The only issue here is our inability to contact the management company to advise them of a blocked kitchen drain at the rear, since the tenants quite rightly have no involvement in domestic maintenance. The management company’s website does not exist and they do not respond to emails.

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