Less house more home

An enforcement notice requiring the cessation of the use of a dwelling in east London as a house in multiple occupation has been quashed, in light of legislation aimed at the reduction of homelessness (DCS Number 400-021-089).

The GPDO normally grants planning permission for the change of use of a house occupied by a single household within Use Class C3 to a house in multiple occupation with not more than six residents (Use Class C4), but the council had made a direction under Article 4 of the Order, removing the right to make this change anywhere in the borough without planning permission. The council was seeking to preserve and increase the stock of family housing, the inspector recorded.

The inspector noted, however, that the council’s statutory duties with regard to homelessness had recently been reinforced by the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, which has significantly reformed homelessness legislation by placing duties on councils to intervene at earlier stages to prevent homelessness in their areas and by requiring councils to provide homelessness services to all those affected, not just those who have priority need. One of those services, he continued, is the provision of assistance in securing that sufficient accommodation and support are available.

The inspector pointed out that development plan policy and the Article 4 Direction did not impose a ban on the change of use from Class C3 to Class C4. Rather, they provided an opportunity to consider the change on its planning merits and to decide whether it should be resisted. He took the view that that consideration should take into account site-specific circumstances, present-day assessments of housing needs and changes in planning policies that had been made since adoption, and it should lead rationally to a decision whether or not planning permission should be withheld in order to preserve the stock of family housing. He found no evidence that the council had considered the change in this way, saying “All I have is the bare statement in the notice that the change of use results in the loss of a three-bedroom family house to the detriment of the stock of family housing in the Borough….”.

Taking account of site-specific circumstances the inspector concluded that housing needs were shifting and that this might make it less appropriate to resist all changes of use from Class C3 to Class C4.

Section 11.2 of DCP Online concerns houses in multiple occupation and section 11.5321 concerns the loss of housing for homeless accommodation.