Policy for HMOs and Student Accommodation

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4 Justification for the Policy

National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

4.1 The NPPF includes the aim to “always seek to secure high quality design and a good standard of amenity for all existing and future occupants of land and buildings”. Further, planning should “enhance and improve the places in which people live their lives” (paragraph 17).

4.2 Paragraph 56 also refers to the need to make places better for people. This includes “safe and accessible environments where crime and disorder, and the fear of crime, do not undermine quality of life or community cohesion”.

4.3 The NPPF states that Local Plans should identify areas where it may be necessary to limit freedom to change the uses of buildings, and support such restrictions with a clear explanation (paragraph 157).

Rented Accommodation and HMOs in Warwick District

4.4 Warwick District has a relatively high proportion of dwellings which are privately rented. The 2011 Census revealed that in the District 17.9% of the stock was privately rented compared with 14.1% in the county. Nationally, the District is ranked 73 (out of 326 English local authorities) in terms of the percentage of privately rented homes. The District has low economic activity rates for the under 24 age group and a relatively young population structure with higher than average numbers in the under 35 age groups. This is partly explained by the numbers of full-time students living in the District but also demonstrates a need for private rented housing for younger age groups unable to enter into owner occupation.

4.5 A significant proportion (about 15%) of the District’s privately rented stock comprises Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). There are about 1,600 known HMOs in the District and a possible further 300. The majority of HMOs (93%) are shared houses and about 81% are shared student houses. The 2011 Census showed that the District ranked 31 for the proportion of student households. The following table shows the types of HMOs in the District.

HMOs by Type

Type of HMO No % Total
Student Shared Houses 1,319 80.9
Other Shared Houses 198 12.1
Bedsits 70 4.3
Staff Accommodation 32 2.0
Other 6 0.4
Student halls of Residence 5 0.3
TOTAL 1,630 100.0
Source: Warwick District Council 2013

4.6 About 91% of HMOs in the District are located in Leamington Spa, with 4% in Warwick and 4% in Kenilworth. Within Leamington Spa, HMOs are heavily concentrated in the south and central parts of the town. The two wards of Brunswick and Willes together contain 65% of HMOs.

Location of HMOs by Leamington Wards

Ward No % Total
Brunswick 536 37.6
Willes 390 27.4
Clarendon 239 16.8
Milverton 173 12.2
Manor 54 3.8
Crown 32 2.2
Leamington Spa 1424 100.0
Source: Warwick District Council 2013

(1) The Issues

4.7 The concentration of HMOs and student accommodation in parts of south and central Leamington Spa has in recent years impacted upon the amenities of more settled residents. Research in connection with the Article 4 Direction identified a number of negative issues which were largely a result of the imbalance caused by:

  • a relatively large proportion of young, single people with student lifestyles which conflict with the lifestyles of more settled residents; and
  • a relatively large proportion of privately rented accommodation, with short term tenancies, which often leads to a lower standard of upkeep of property and the loss of a sense of belonging within the community.

4.8 Where HMOs are not concentrated, there is less of an issue. The issues are not always related directly to the occupants themselves but may be a result of the concentration of young, single people or privately rented accommodation; or of a high population density in areas of smaller terraced homes. Houses occupied by students or other young people are more likely to be a target for burglary because there is less attention to security and the houses contain more equipment, such as lap tops, than a single family home.

4.9 The main problems which are created within communities where there is a concentration of HMOs include:

  • noise and anti-social behaviour, particularly late at night and in the early hours of the morning
  • increased crime
  • negative impact on the physical environment, including inadequate attention to waste disposal
  • lower levels of community involvement and pride in the area
  • impact on local services
  • pressure on spaces for on-street parking
  • reduction in the stock of lower priced housing suitable for first-time buyers

4.10 The three issues commonly cited by residents are noise and anti-social behaviour, rubbish on the streets, and property management/ maintenance issues. Occupiers of HMOs are more likely to be the victims of crime, partly due to inadequate attention to security in the home but also because they are more likely to be on the streets late at night. Incidents of crime, such as burglary from dwellings, vehicles and people, are higher in areas where HMOs are concentrated. Noise and anti-social behaviour takes place mainly outside and on the street and also effects residents along streets between the town centre and areas of concentration. Appendices 2b and 2c provide further information on levels of anti-social behaviour, crime and complaints about noise and refuse.

4.11 The Council has, for a number of years, worked with the University (Accommodation Service and the Student’s Union), Warwickshire Police and landlords to try and resolve issues when, and before, they arise. This has produced a number of successful initiatives. All parties are aware of the issues and work together to resolve them. However, the short term nature of student tenancies means that each new academic year tends to bring new tenants with whom the authorities, and more settled residents, must re-engage. Thus, although much is being done by the various parties, the problems are unlikely to be completely resolved.

4.12 The Council recognises that HMOs play an important role within the District’s housing stock and it is not the aim of the policy to reduce the overall numbers or restrict further such uses. Further, there are positive effects of student populations and young people, in particular the contribution towards the local economy in terms of spending power, a part-time and seasonal workforce and a potential graduate workforce.

How the Policy will address the Issues

4.13 The policy aims to address the following issues:

  • the concentration of HMOs and student accommodation
  • inadequate refuse storage
  • on-street anti-social behaviour

4.14 The application of the 100m radius rule will ensure that issues such as anti-social behaviour, increased crime, refuse on streets and parking will not worsen in areas which already have a significant proportion of HMOs. It takes into account the fact that the average household size of an HMO is approximately double that of non-HMO dwellings. Exceptions to the rule may be made where the application site is located along a main road, in a mixed use area, provided the route to the town centre is not along quiet residential streets. This will address the issue of street noise late at night, particularly during mid-week evenings when “student nights” are more likely to be held in town centre clubs and pubs.

4.15 The policy requires adequate refuse storage facilities appropriate to the size of the household to ensure that refuse containers do not overflow and that there is adequate space for their storage.

4.16 The requirement for properties to be within 400 metres walking distance1 of a bus stop is included because, in the case of students, Warwick University discourages students from taking cars onto the campus and access by bus will in most cases be the only option. Warwick University campus is some 8 miles from Leamington Spa so cycling will not be a realistic option for most people.


Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation “Guidelines for Planning for Public Transport in Developments”

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