No more cheap flats in our town
A COUNCIL committee has voiced objections to houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs) in Ilfracombe after unanimously rejecting plans for a converted hotel.
The application to transform the former Harleigh House Hotel on Wilder Road into three ground floor flats and a 12-bedroom HMO across three floors was submitted in November by Mortehoe firm Schooner Taverns Ltd.
Each floor of the HMO would have a shared kitchen and the plans also include two off-street parking spaces.
The application came before Ilfracombe Town Council's planning committee on Monday night where it was unanimously recommended for refusal.
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Committee chairman Councillor Philip Webb highlighted the town council's strategic plan for 2010 to 2020 which states that Ilfracombe already has a high proportion of buildings converted into HMOs.
The document, which is available on the council's website, states: "Although some may provide affordable accommodation and prevent social isolation, many are in a poor state with below standard and inadequate facilities.
"Often landlords target those claiming benefits from other towns and cities.
"Planning policy should be aimed at reducing the number of HMOs in the town and the remaining HMOs should be licensed and minimum standards imposed."
In October last year several councillors expressed frustration that an HMO on Hillsborough Terrace had been approved by North Devon Council planning officers despite staunch opposition from the town council.
While Ilfracombe councillors argued the plans for eight letting rooms at Rosemullen House were at odds with the town's strategic plan, the district council approved the development saying there were no justifiable reasons to refuse it.
Speaking at the meeting on Monday Mr Webb said: "HMOs are not in keeping with our strategic plan.
"We've got more than enough single residences already and we're trying to swing the balance in favour of more family homes; but this goes the other way.
"I don't see the need for any more HMOs and we must make North Devon Council's planning officers aware of our feelings."
Councillor Rod Donovan said: "If HMOs are run properly they can work well but there's no way I can support this application without seeing a management plan first."
Several members also raised concerns that one of the ground floor flats was too small to live in.
Councillor Anne Thomas said: "It's a lovely old building, it would be such a shame to see it change for the worse."
The Journal tried to contact the applicant but no one was available for comment.
The plans can be viewed at www.northdevon.gov.uk