UPDATE 12pm Thu 21 Nov: Planning has been APPROVED by Birmingham City Council Planning Committee.
Birmingham City Council are set to decide on a controversial application to convert a former south Birmingham police station in to a 10 roomed House of Multiple Occupation (HMO).
A planning report recommends the proposals are approved, despite opposition from West Midlands Police, some local residents and local politicians.
The former Bristol Road South base for Longbridge and Northfield neighbourhood police teams was sold at an auction event at Villa Park in July 2017 as West Midlands Police relocated police teams and sold off assets in a bid to save the force millions of pounds.
The building fetched £400,000 – more than twice its guide price of £165,000.
Previous planning applications for a change of use and for a car sales office with self contained flats above were refused last year. An enforcement investigation is ongoing after the building was used as a car sales office without having received planning application.
This new application for a change of use to HMO will be discussed at the council’s planning committee meeting today (Thursday 21st November).
An HMO is a house where residents have private bedrooms but share some facilities such as laundry, bathroom and/or kitchen facilities and kitchens.
In this case, plans include 10 single bedrooms with en suite facilities over 3 floors with a communal open plan kitchen/lounge/dining room on the ground floor. Accessed via Bristol Road South, there will be 10 parking spaces to the rear of the building, with an outhouse being converted in to a cycle store.
West Midlands Police themselves lodged an objection to the application, stating a: “belief that a 10 bedroom HMO will increase calls to emergency services, increase crime and the fear of crime and have a detrimental effect on the neighbourhood.”
Local politicians and some residents have also expressed concerns.
Labour MP Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfield) and Cllr Olly Armstrong (Northfield) submitted a joint objection for reasons including: No licence application having been submitted; the landlord needing to ensure the building is suitable and has the right facilities for the number of people living there; and the impact on existing parking and traffic issues at Hawkesley Mill Lane and the Meadows Primary School.
Northfield Conservative Party also submitted an objection, supported by a 69 signature petition. They raised concerns including: Over-intensive use for the area and property; Out of character with the Northfield community: Proposal is contrary to the mature suburbs policy objective of protecting suburbs; Intrusive to neighbours, would cause excessive noise and damage public amenity; Increased risk of crime and anti-social behaviour.
In her final report to the committee, Planning Officer Caroline Featherston has recommended that the proposal is approved, subject to certain conditions.
Recognising the concerns raised, she states that – under current planning policies and guidelines – the proposed change of use and principle of development would be acceptable at the location. She states: “The application would not cause an over-concentration of HMOs within this vicinity, and with the amendments made, would have an acceptable impact upon residential amenity, highway safety and parking.”
Addressing the objection from West Midlands Police on the grounds of crime and fear of crime, the officer notes in the report that: “the nature of the type of people to occupy the premises is not a material planning consideration and HMO accommodation has a role to play in providing housing for certain groups in society.”