Opinion: Article 4 is not anti-students

Lincoln's West End, a popular residential area. Photo: Luke Pennington via Flickr.

Lincoln’s West End, a popular residential area for both students and locals. (Photo: Luke Pennington via Flickr)

The recent request by the West End Residents’ Association (WERA) to implement an Article 4 Direction in their area has received significant media coverage. Committee member and West End resident Rob Lewis explains the reasoning behind their request for an Article 4 Direction in Lincoln.

Article 4 is concerned with limiting or halting the conversion of typically family dwellings to houses in multiple occupancy (HMOs) and in recent years many long term residents of the West End have become progressively more concerned about the number of such conversions taking place in the area.

That trend shows no sign of halting. The great majority of HMOs in the West End are occupied by students and the WERA request has therefore been viewed in some quarters as anti-student. This is categorically not the case and WERA has recently welcomed two students of the University of Lincoln onto its Committee. It is, however, an absolute fact that the expansion of HMO numbers in the West End has given rise to a number of issues, which have been of concern to permanent residents and have had a negative effect on the area.

There have been significant instances of anti-social behaviour, although this does seem to have reduced recently; but other issues, such as overflowing bins and litter, unkempt front gardens, badly maintained properties, and parking problems show no sign of abating. As mentioned above, WERA welcomes the student presence in the area, but at the same time there is a great desire to maintain a balanced, mixed community, and the fear is that if present trends continue that balance will be lost forever.

It is important that the impact of Article 4 is understood, and on its own it simply means that planning permission would have to be sought for any HMO conversion where three or more unrelated people would be living in a specific property. Only in the case of certain larger HMOs is planning permission required at present. 38 councils (mainly university cities) have already implemented Article 4, with the same problems as those mentioned above being the reason in most of those cases.

The City Council also has the option (which WERA has requested) of introducing a Supplementary Planning Order alongside Article 4. This has the effect of putting a specific ceiling on the number of HMOs which a council would permit in a given area. About 25 of those councils with Article 4 have done this and currently 25% (Nottingham) is the highest figure any will allow. WERA is aware that there are currently at least 30% of HMOs in the West End and hence the belief that action is now urgently needed.

Article 4 is not retrospective in any way and therefore existing HMOs will not be affected. And if the City Council does introduce a Supplementary Planning Order with appropriate upper limit then only areas where that limit is currently exceeded, e.g. Carholme Ward and possibly Abbey and Park Wards, would be affected, and HMO conversion, subject to planning permission, could still take place elsewhere in the City.

If any proof of the impact of HMOs in the West End is needed, then there is demographic information on the City of Lincoln Council website, which shows the huge increase in 18-24 year olds in the area in recent years and a percentage in that age group massively greater than any other ward in the City.

There are now over 14,000 students at Brayford Campus and Bishop Grosseteste University – greater than 15% of the City population. At Nottingham, Sheffield, York, Exeter, Norwich, and Worcester this percentage is in the range 8% – 11%. There appears to have been no plan regarding the impact of accommodating these numbers into the wider community and the Article 4 request is the result of that.

Responding to the recent Carholme Guest House appeal, the Government Inspector referred to a Council report by Fordham Research in 2003, highlighting an increasing density of students in the West End causing serious imbalance in the community and housing market. No action was taken at that time, but the Inspector commented: “it is clear that a tipping point has been reached where the density of HMOs is causing serious detriment to the living conditions of residents. Any further increase, no matter how small would exacerbate this problem.”

The preliminary draft of the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan, to which the City Council has been a main contributor, acknowledges the issues arising from over concentrations of HMOs and concludes: “It is necessary to control the location, design and management of HMOs to ensure communities do not become unbalanced and residential amenity is protected.”

The WERA Committee hopes that the above will substantially confirm the validity of our Article 4 request to the City Council.

One Response to Opinion: Article 4 is not anti-students

  1. cupboard says:

    In case someone makes a request for an article 4 Direction for an area and proves that it is necessary because permitted development rights can cause loss of amenity in this area. I would like to know if the council refuses because it says that financial compensation will be payable to residents if it issues an Article 4 Direction if the council has to put forward evidence that this is true?

    In case compensation is really payable to residents if an article 4 Direction is issued I would like to know if the interest of the area which will lose amenity because of permitted development rights takes priority or it is the finance of the council which will take priority in deciding whether or not to issue this article 4 direction

    Can we request that our demand for an article 4 direction is considered by at a planning committee of councillors?