You don't have to be mad to work here...
But on Portsmouth's Planning Committee, sanity is definitely not required. In fact, imagine a pack of wild dogs with the scent of blood and that is much like what happens when they hear the word 'HMO'.
Wyndcliffe Road - A Potted History
Back in 2018, PDPLA member Antony Lane applied for Planning Permission for change of use from a medium (6-bed) HMO to a slightly large medium (7-bed) HMO as that is what the rules appeared to dictate at the time - how a small/middle sized HMO changing to a slightly less small/middle sized HMO is a change of use is anyone's guess, but that is another story.
Planning permission was refused and Antony started the appeal process.
In 2019, before the appeal was heard, a former member appealed a range of similar properties which were also refused permission and he won the appeal. The inspector who heard the appeal made it clear that adding one bedroom to an HMO was not a change of use. This became known as the 'Campbell Properties' decision and obviously should have corrected Portsmouth's understanding of what was and was not a change of use.
Hearing the result, Antony withdrew his appeal as obviously, the Planning Committee had been wrong to assume there had been a change of use so their refusal to permit that change was irrelevant. The planning team understood that and Antony was allowed to continue without sanction.
Roll forward to February of this year - Antony had the same property in front of the Planning Committee again, same change of use. In the interim, the property had been inspected by the scourge of landlords in the city and issued a licence as it met ALL of Portsmouth's strict licensing conditions (however, it was the Licensing team who referred the property to the Planning Committee to confirm it had the necessary paperwork - as all they could see was a rejected application and withdrawn appeal). Hence the repeat performance.
If you remember, the February meeting was about as unprofessional as is imaginable - the Leader of the Council at the time, Cllr. Vernon Jackson called Antony Lane a 'shit landlord' and the Councillor responsible for Housing, Cllr. Sanders described the property as a disgrace. This was in spite of the property meeting ALL of the city's many regulations and the landlord having spent many thousands of pounds improving it - the tirade of abuse was because a disgruntled neighbour, who was allowed an 11 minute deputation, was believed absolutely in spite of all evidence - even though said neighbour had previously dropped out of mediation arranged with the landlord, after the mediator confirmed that the neighbour was openly lying and making up incidents.
We covered that meeting here: Portsmouth Planning Horror Show - PDPLA News - Portsmouth & District Private Landlords Association and our requests to the chair of the Planning Committee for better management of the meeting going forward and an apology for Antony Lane have, so far, been completely ignored.
Partly because of the behaviour at the February meeting but mainly because of the many appeals that PCC had lost, the councillors were read the riot act by one of their employees at the April planning meeting. We were there to see it St George, The Dragon, Portsmouth Planning and HMOs - PDPLA News - Portsmouth & District Private Landlords Association and were taken aback when the solicitor responsible for keeping the planning committee honest repeatedly stated that what various councillors were asking her to do or doing themselves was not legal.
Why Is It News Again?
After the February meeting - the report produced stated that "the case be closed because... there has been no material change of use identified, and therefore no breach of planning control against which formal enforcement action can be taken."
And went on to say, "Should the committee be minded to reject this view and consider the use as unacceptable, then any Enforcement notice served would seek to rely on the reasons for refusal of 18/01332/FUL and the Inspector's comments made when dismissing the appeal made against this decision. However, it is anticipated that any appeal made against such an enforcement notice would be likely upheld on appeal with the potential to leave the Council liable to an award of costs." - In simple English, "do not enforce this as if you, it will be appealed, you will lose and it will cost us money"
What did they do?
Well, this week, poor ol'Antony received a package (with a £4 stamp on the front - good use of taxpayers funds) and the covering letter started, "The council has issued an enforcement notice relating to the above land and the Council now serve on you three copies of the notice". It went on to state the breach of planning control was an apparent change of use by the addition of 1 extra bedroom.....
Obviously this one will go to appeal and whilst you cannot guarantee the outcome of any legal process, we will continue to question the sanity of a group of people who, as Einstein put it in his definition of insanity, are doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.