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Agenda item

DM/20/00262/FPA - 75 Whinney Hill, Durham, DH1 3BG

Erection of part two-storey/part single-storey extension at rear of existing small HMO (use class C4).


The Planning Officer, Lisa Morina, gave a detailed presentation on the report relating to the abovementioned planning application, a copy of which had been circulated (for copy see file of minutes).  Members noted that the written report was supplemented by a visual presentation which included photographs of the site.  The application was for the erection of part two-storey/part single-storey extension at rear of existing small HMO (use class C4) and was recommended for approval subject conditions.


The Planning Officer, LM explained the property was not listed, though fell within the City of Durham Conservation Area and was in existing C4 HMO use prior to the Article 4 Direction coming into effect and therefore had not required permission at that time.  She noted the Highway Section had noted no objections and the property was within a controlled parking zone.  She noted there had been no response from Durham Constabulary and no objections from the Environment, Health and Consumer Protection, they did not consider the proposals to constitute a statutory nuisance.  She added that the Design and Conservation Section considered the proposal would have a neutral impact, Spatial Policy provided data showing that 39.6 percent of properties within a 100 metre radius were student properties, with the HMO Team offered no objections.  The Planning Officer, LM noted objections had been received from the City of Durham Parish Council, Whinney Hill Community Group and the City of Durham Trust, with a summary of their representations being set out within the report.


The Planning Officer, LM noted that the impact of the application on the residential area was felt to be acceptable and the proposals met the requirements of Local Plan and NPPF Policies.  She noted that while there was some conflict with the Interim Policy on Student Accommodation it was not felt a refusal could be sustained on the basis the housing mix would remain unaltered.  She concluded by noting the objections and concerns raised had been taken into account and not felt of sufficient weight to justify refusal and therefore the recommendation was for approval, subject to the conditions as set out within the report.


The Chair thanked the Planning Officer, LM and asked Parish Councillor John Ashby representing the City of Durham Parish Council to speak in relation to the application.


Parish Councillor J Ashby thanked the Chair and Committee for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the City of Durham Parish Council.  He noted that the Applicant claimed that his proposal did not come under the Article 4 Direction or interim policies, with the Parish Council believing he was wrong and that it did. 


Parish Councillor J Ashby added that the Applicant also stated that no significant consultee objections have been received, evidently, objections from the local community and the Parish Council were of no significance to him, the Parish Council being a Statutory Consultee.  He explained that the prevailing statutory development plan is the City of Durham Local Plan 2004, with Saved Policy H9 only allowing extensions if adequate parking was provided and the amenity of nearby residents was not adversely affected.  He added that the expansion of 75 Whinney Hill into a six-bedroom student HMO in this area would increase the presence of people whose life-styles were different to year-round residents and so increase the very threat to nearby residential amenity that Part 2 of Saved Policy H9 was designed to prevent. 


Parish Councillor J Ashby noted that the parking situation in Whinney Hill was dreadful during University term-time, with many cars parking on the pavements and verges and therefore for the Highway Officers to say that “any additional cars brought to the site would be subject to parking charges therefore additional demand would be limited due to this reason” ignored the actual situation on the ground during term time.  He added that the proposal was thus also contrary to Part 1 of Policy H9 and should be refused on those grounds.


It was explained that Parish Councillor J Ashby felt his principal purpose speaking at Committee was to give a fully up-to-date account of the policy position in respect of this application.  He noted the County Council’s Interim Policy on Student Accommodation included opposition to extensions to HMOs in areas where over 10 percent of properties were student HMOs, with the Interim Policy continuing to carry weight.  He noted that, having lost the Appeal at 40 Hawthorn Terrace referred to by the Officer, the County Council in its submitted County Durham Plan (CDP) policy for HMOs proposed to drop the bit that opposed extensions to existing HMOs.   The Council’s Planning Officers had therefore been granting approvals to extensions under delegated powers.  He informed Members that the County Council had now reversed that temporary stance and had formally proposed a Main Modification to the Submitted Plan to restore the restriction on extensions that result in additional bed spaces to existing HMOs.  He explained that it was accompanied by proposed new text in the County Plan as follows: 

it is recognised that an extension to an HMO which results in additional bed spaces and therefore potentially accommodates more students would introduce further students into an area where there are already concerns about the impact of the student population on the residential amenity of non-student residents.  For this reason, extensions to HMOs to accommodate bed spaces where the 10% tipping point is exceeded will not be supported”.


Parish Councillor J Ashby noted they were powerful and very welcome words and put the County Council in a strong position. 

He added that the Main Modifications constituted formally adopted County Council policy and therefore were to be afforded the significant weight of being very up-to-date and in response to the Examination in Public Inspector’s specific question.  He noted that furthermore, the Inspector had informed the County Council that the proposed Main Modifications were necessary for making the Plan sound.


Parish Councillor J Ashby referred to the key argument put forward by the Officer, that extensions to HMOs were acceptable, and noted that it was entirely negated by the County Council’s strong stance expressed in the quote from the Main Modification.  He added that indeed, the Committee had recently rejected proposals by the Applicant for HMO extensions at 17 and 18 Providence Row on the grounds set out in that quote. 


He noted in the case of 75 Whinney Hill, within a 100 metre radius some 40 percent of properties are student accommodation exempt from council tax charges.  He explained that this was well in excess of the proportion of student properties allowed under the Interim Policy and the strengthened County Plan policy.  He added that with 40 percent of properties being HMOs that meant that 60 percent were still year-round family houses and noted it was wrong of the Applicant to claim that the area had, generally, high student housing concentration implying that it was too far gone to be worth trying to retain as a balanced community.


Parish Councillor J Ashby explained that the Parish Council concluded that this application should be refused on the weighty grounds of being contrary to Saved Policy H9, the Interim Policy on Student Accommodation and the proposed Main Modifications to CDP Policy 16.3, which he repeated was required by the Inspector for the Examination in Public for the County Plan to be found sound.  He noted the CDP had reached a stage where it could be given appropriate weight; as spelled out in Paragraph 48 of the NPPF.  He noted that accordingly, the Parish Council urged the Committee to stand by the Council’s carefully considered, up-to-date formal position on extensions to HMOs and refuse this application.


The Chair thanked Parish Councillor J Ashby and asked the Senior Committee Services Officer to read out a statement received from local resident, Mrs Pamela Hedley who had been unable to attend the meeting.


The Senior Committee Services Officer noted the statement from Mrs P Hedley read as follows:


I am aware that there will be a meeting this week concerning the proposed extension to 75 Whinney Hill, DH1 3BG and although I will not be able to attend, I would like my point of view to be taken into consideration.

At present the property is home to 4 students and has been for the last several years, this has not been any cause for concern ,apart from the number of cars the household has recently had, which if you know Whinney Hill, exacerbates the problem with parking, to the point where workman to our property have to arrive by 7am to get a parking spot.  I feel that possibly doubling the number of individuals may worsen this issue.


Our properties are the only ones, as far as I'm aware that share a yard.  Again, the issue of refuse has not been an issue, we encourage our student neighbours to put any excess refuse into our bins if we have the room.  This keeps the shared space tidy and hopefully vermin free.  My concern is that the refuse created by possibly 10 people may not be manageable, especially if no extra bins are provided, which appears to be the case for example in the former prison officer flats. There doesn't seem to be any extra bins for each flat and the excess rubbish is unsightly.


Also, as we have this shared space our kitchen windows and back doors face one another. The light into this space is limited most of the day, my concern is that if a 2 storey extension is added this limited amount of daylight into our property will be further restricted.  For the past several years when we have had 4 student neighbours where noise has not been an issue, but again my concern is that with possibly up to 10 in residence the noise level may increase, especially when they have visitors.  Ours is a family home with extended family, including young grandchildren, visiting us on regular occasions and often staying over, again my concern maybe that noise late at night when we have grandchildren sleeping at ours maybe an issue with the number of students in number 75 significantly increased.


There are far more purpose built student accommodations now in the city that I would have hoped that residential areas may have been saved from further development to keep a more balanced community. Also, where we have had a good relationship with our student neighbours and the former landlord, I fear this may be jeopardised if problems that have been absent then appear”.


The Chair thanked the Senior Committee Services Officer and asked the Planning Officer, LM to respond to the representations made.


The Planning Officer, LM noted that in respect of the number of students and the use, the property was in C4 HMO use and would continue as C4 HMO use with a maximum of six residents, further residents requiring a separate planning permission for sui generis use.  In terms of the impact upon the neighbour in relation to the brickwork of the extension, the Planning Officer, LM noted that it projected 3 metres at ground floor, then 1.2 metres at the first floor. 

She added that the 3 metre extension at ground floor could be carried out under permitted development, therefore the main element requiring consent was the 1.2 metre element which was not felt to have significant impact upon the neighbour.


The Policy Team Leader, Graeme Smith noted he would provide an update in respect of the weight of the policy which were referred to within representations by the City of Durham Parish Council.  He noted that while the CDP was at an advanced stage of preparation, it was considered that no weight could be afforded to the CDP in the decision making process until the Inspector’s final report had been received.  He added that there had been a number of main modifications made and effectively the CDP was still within the examination process and all the main modifications were subject to consultation until 21 July 2020.  He added that at the end of the period the Council would forward those comments received on the main modifications, along with its response to the comments, to the Inspector and for the Inspector to consider the comments that were put forward.  He noted that therefore it was too soon to give any weight to any main modification to the CDP as in effect they were still subject to consultation.  The Policy Team Leader noted from a policy perspective the view was the application should be determined under the statutory development plan, which was the saved policies of the City of Durham Local Plan, together with the Interim Policy on Student Accommodation adopted in April 2016 which was a material consideration for the decision making process.  He noted it had always been very clear that the weight afforded to the Interim Policy must be less than the statutory development plan.  Accordingly, he noted that the Council’s approach to considering extensions to HMOs was informed by the Inspector’s decision relating to 40 Hawthorn Terrace.  He noted that the Inspector had made it very clear that it had seemed the Interim Policy was at odds with the more permissive stance of Saved Policy H9 of the Local Plan and therefore Officers would say that while the Interim Policy had weight, it was not part of the statutory development plan, potentially in conflict with the statutory development plan according to the Inspector and therefore Policy H9 must prevail in the determination of the application.


The Solicitor – Planning and Development reiterated that issues for Members to bear in mind were: there was no change of use application, the property was already in C4 use and the aspect to be considered was the built development of the extension: that the main modification mentioned was at the consultation stage, as set out at paragraph 22 of the report, and not part of the adopted Local Plan and therefore should not be given weight at this time; and that Interim Policy on Student Accommodation was also not part of the Local Plan and should therefore be given less weight than the Local Plan, specifically where there was conflict between the two, the Local Plan must prevail.


The Highway Development Manager noted in reference to whether there was adequate parking in the area, the application property was within the city’s controlled parking zone and therefore, unlike the last application, the Council had control over who parked in the area.  He added that the area was allocated for permit holders, or those that pay and display to park in the area and he highlighted the demand for parking.  He noted the parking issues in the area had always been quite contentious and that residents would not be permitted any further permits to park in the area, though they could buy two permits at a cost of £100 to park within the controlled parking zone.  He added that if additional students, beyond those that may have the permits, wish to park their cars then they would have to pay the pay and display charges of £24 per week.  He noted that if students chose to do that it was not felt that would have a significant effect on the competition for parking.


The Chair thanked the Officers for their responses and asked the Committee for their comments and questions on the application.


Councillor J Shuttleworth noted the Highways Development Manager had stated if people were not able to park at Whinney Hill they could park slightly further away, he noted that Hallgarth Street was a bus route and these types of parking issues were a problem for the residents of the city and reiterated that people were sick and tired of the HMO applications, and that there was an adequate number of halls of residence and therefore there was not a need for HMOs.


Councillor J Maitland noted the issues relating to parking and asked as regards the issue raised by the neighbour in respect of additional bins being provided.  The Planning Officer, LM noted she was not aware of the requirements in terms of provision of additional bins for six residents, though there was sufficient space for additional bins.  The Chair noted as a former Member of the Environment and Sustainable Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee she recalled there was a limit over which additional bins could be requested.  The Planning Officer, LM noted that for six residents or more a request for additional bins could be made.


Councillor P Taylor thanked the Officer for her very professional presentation and noted the figure of almost 40 percent students in the area, the CDP not being ready and the weight to be afforded the interim policy.  He noted that he felt that it would not be long before Whinney Hill was lost as a residential area and asked if anyone travelled to Whinney Hill now, would they consider it in compliance with Policy H9 in terms of adequate parking and would there be an adverse effect on the rest of the community and their amenity.  He added that he felt the answers were no, there was not adequate parking and yes, amenity would be adversely affected. 


He noted he was very unhappy, creeping towards losing Whinney Hill as a residential area and wondered, given it was 40 percent student properties now, what the amount would be by the time the CDP was in place and wondered if the Committee had the wherewithal to say enough was enough and suggested it might.


Councillor D Freeman noted he was a Member of the City of Durham Parish Council, however, was not a member of their Planning Committee and had no input in their submission on the application.  He noted that he felt the response made by Parish Councillor J Ashby to the application was quite damning and while he felt the Committee report was well written, he also felt the responses from Officers were an appeasement to student property Applicants.  He added that he felt it was quite clear that the Committee could refuse the application as it was contrary to Policy H9, with Whinney Hill being a narrow street without the parking provision and therefore inevitably residents would be affected by the application, noting a permanent, all-year round resident living next door to the property.  Councillor D Freeman explained that the Interim Policy on Student Accommodation was quite clear and that the application breached the policy and he was aware Officers had made reference to the Appeal regarding Hawthorn Terrace, however, more recently two Appeals were won regarding properties at Providence Row and also he felt Whinney Hill with 60 percent residential properties was a different situation when compared to Hawthorn Terrace with around 90 percent student properties and was a defensible position in terms of refusing the application.  He noted that while Members were told to put no weight in the emerging CDP policies, it was where the Council were going in terms of an end destination for policy and that the Council would be looking to refuse these types of application in future.  He noted that he felt the Council needed to refuse these types of application today and had the policies to do that, he felt sure the Council would win any Appeal the Applicant may lodge and therefore he would propose refusal of the proposals and urged Members to refuse the application.


Councillor B Coult echoed the comments made by Councillor P Taylor and was mindful of the number of residents living in the area and the impact of expanding student properties on those residents and therefore seconded the motion for refusal as put by Councillor D Freeman.


The Planning Officer, LM noted that the 40 percent HMO statistic would not increase as a result of the application, as there was no change of use, the property already being an HMO in use.  She noted that the Appeals regarding Providence Row were still being considered at Appeal, they had not yet been determined. 



The Highway Development Manager noted that in terms of potential car ownership if 100 percent then this would be an additional two cars, they would have access to two permits, and it was felt that if there was demand the controlled zone could accommodate an additional two vehicles.

He noted that demand varied during the day and that the property was in a very accessible location for sustainable transport.


The Solicitor – Planning and Development asked if Councillor D Freeman could elaborate in terms of his proposed reasons for refusal.


Councillor D Freeman noted he felt the application was contrary to Policies H9, H13 and the Interim Policy on Student Accommodation, as there was a percentage greater than 10 percent of student HMOs within 100 metres of the property.  He added that it was contrary to H9, HMO properties, in that “such properties or buildings do not adversely affect the character of the area and do not require significant extensions or alterations”, with his feeling being the application would quite clearly affect the character.  Councillor D Freeman noted that in terms of H13 he felt it was contrary in respect of character and amenity, and further students within the area, albeit the property already being an HMO and the percentage of HMOs would not change, would have a significant adverse effect upon the character and appearance of the area. 


The Solicitor – Planning and Development noted that he had some concerns in reliance on conflict with the Interim Policy given the clear guidance given within previous Appeal decisions on how the Council should be interpreting that policy.  He noted the impact upon the character and amenity of an area were subjective, judgement issues and noted he would be more comfortable with refusal reasons which related to those impacts, rather than reliance on conflict with the Interim Policy.  Councillor D Freeman acknowledged the comments from the Solicitor – Planning and Development, however, noted he would stick with the reasons he had given, noting while one or two additional students appeared a small number, he noted the drip-drip of one or two students led to hundreds of additional students.  He added he felt the focus should be on the Interim Policy and to ignore an Appeal that was made elsewhere in the City, under different circumstances with a much higher percentage of HMOs in that area.


Councillor P Taylor noted he had sympathy with the comments from the Solicitor – Planning and Development, however, the policies gave an indication of where the Council wanted to be and he accepted the point made by the Planning Officer, LM in terms of the 40 percent remaining the same, however, he noted as Councillor D Freeman had that it was the drip-drip of additional numbers that would build up and noted that the percentages were not likely to go back down. 

He added that his judgement in respect of Policy H9 was that there was not adequate parking and it would have an adverse and detrimental effect on the rest of the community and the amenity of residents.  He added that he felt it was very important to get the new policies from the CDP in place as soon as possible as percentages of 40 percent were demonstrating that residential communities were nearly lost.




That the application be REFUSED as the proposal was located in an area already identified as exceeding the threshold set out in the Interim Policy on Student Accommodation and would result in a more intensive level of multiple occupancy.  It would therefore adversely affect the amenities of adjacent and nearby occupiers in terms of noise and disturbance and adversely affecting the character of the area by further imbalance in the community, contrary to Policies H9 and H13 of the City of Durham Local Plan, the Interim Policy on Student Accommodation and paragraphs 91 & 127(f) of the National Planning Policy Framework.  



Councillor J Robinson left the meeting at 11.37am




Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714