Blackburn with Darwen Council’s new clampdown on HMOs

Published Thursday 17 August 2023 at 16:14

New rules are now in place in Blackburn with Darwen preventing family homes from being converted to HMOs without planning permission.

Councillors voted to support an Article 4 Direction which will help regulate houses in multiple occupation (HMO) in urban areas across the borough.

HMOs are properties where at least three people who aren’t from the same household rent a space and share facilities like bathrooms and kitchens.

Before the new regulations were introduced, houses in many parts of the borough could be changed into HMOs without the need for applying for planning permission.

Now, they’ll only be allowed as an exception.

Councillor Quesir Mahmood, the Council’s Executive Member for Growth and Development, explained:

We wanted to take a real hard line on HMOs in our borough.

Whilst the planning actions taken so far to resist additional HMO approvals in designated areas are considered to have been successful, there have been increasing concerns, from across the Council, that the number of HMO beds in the borough is still growing.

Currently, we estimate that there are around 1,000 bed spaces in HMOs here which is far more than our neighbouring boroughs and disproportionate to our local needs.

Due to the number of beds, it often means that people – many being incredibly vulnerable – are brought from outside of the borough to one of the HMOs and it’s putting a huge strain on services for our residents.

Previous Article 4 Directions, introduced in 2013, have proven successful in selected wards across the borough.

Now, following a process including public consultation, the restrictions have been extended to cover the whole urban area of the borough.

Councillor Mahmood added:

For many owners, the HMOs are incredibly lucrative, but the sheer number of them is having a negative impact on our borough and we knew we needed to take further action to stop that.

These new powers mean we can take a much tougher stance on HMOs, which we know can be a magnet for anti-social behaviour and often are in need of improved standards.

It’s a really good step in the right direction as we work hard to build healthier, happier and safer communities.

The Council received almost £1m of Government funding to give new ways to help tenants in supported housing along with new enforcement measures – and crack down on unscrupulous landlords.

The cash, from the government’s £20 million Supported Housing Improvement Programme, allows for more frequent and thorough inspections of supported housing.

The new Article 4 Direction was first ‘made’ in August 2022, followed by a public consultation.

The Council considered all comments received through that consultation in deciding to ‘confirm’ the direction which took effect from August 9 2023.

Copies of the Direction, the plans showing the areas included and a report setting out the Council’s justification can be viewed by clicking here.

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