It was with some incredulity that we heard that there had been 139 objections to the conversion of 2 derelict shops in Stamshaw to HMO's. We consider it hypocritical that the local authorities know they need shared housing in the city, the Local Plan talks about 'mixed and balanced' communities, Housing Options place formerly homeless tenants in them yet councillors continue to encourage the demonisation of HMO's by local residents and do nothing to explain the bigger picture or allay their fears.This against the backdrop this week of a property in Cosham, much needed to house overseas nurses drafted in to cover staff shortages due to Covid, also sitting empty due to issues with the 'change of use' required before it can be used as shared accommodation.
For local residents to prefer 2 derelict shops to homes for up to 12 people is just madness – especially as the Portsmouth Housing Standards are the most stringent in the country, you can guarantee those 12 new residents will have a higher standard of living than any of their neighbours.
As one of our members put it, "I manage one of the properties named, it has been upgraded (£50k plus project) inspected, licenced and upgraded again to meet regulations. I am there most weeks, not as difficult to park as much of Portsmouth and there is a parking scheme in place, so in the event that we have 3 car owners in the property (at present no tenant owns a car) it will be prohibitively expensive"
Yes, people resist change and yes, they don't like something which is different and of course it would be madness for the councillor responsible for that ward to do anything other than support the 139 residents who object, but the role of the Planning Committee is different. Obviously, where individual applications directly affect a specific committee member or that member has involvement in some way, then for that item, the committee member needs to recuse themselves from any discussion or subsequent decision. But the rest of the committee need to take a step back, look at planning law and regulations and ensure they are met, and then look at the local plan and the wider needs of the city with a view to taking a positive and proactive role in shaping the look and feel of the city for the future. Unfortunately, we have yet to see evidence of any such behaviours of late – rather we get the short-term, populist vote-seeking behaviours that further encourage the demonisation of shared housing without any real discussion of how many people live in the city, what types of accommodation are needed to house them and in what proportions in each area of the town.
The sad fact is that the 139 'objectors' in Stamshaw are actually resisting the gentrification of the area – removal of derelict properties and upgrading of those that were derelict before they are brought back into use, as the increase in standards will push house prices higher in the area such that those who live there will no longer be able to afford to stay in the area should they decide to move and their children will be priced out of the local market. This is a natural outcome of urbanisation – Old Portsmouth is very expensive now (in real terms) compared to when the High Street housed a slaughterhouse and a coal merchants, but most would argue that is a good thing. Had we had today's planning committee 150 years ago, I fear that Old Portsmouth would not have improved as it has.
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