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This meeting on 7/11/2015 was organised by our local MP; Steve McCabe, who wants to introduce tougher enforcement of permitted development within Selly Oak and other parts of the UK where rogue builders and landlords are blatantly flouting the existing building regulations. 

The event took place on Saturday 7th November 2015 at the Christ Church hall on the Pershore Road and was attended by around seventy people with two of our three councillors’; Changese Khan and Karen McCarthy also in attendance.

 

Everyone who attended this meeting was provided with a campaign poster and a background summary of how the introduction of permitted development by Parliament in May 2013 has operated in practice since this time. The information given summarised the parameters for the minor changes allowable without planning permission being required although many homeowners and landlords were still confused about exactly what could be done. Freedom of information requests by Steve McCabe illustrate that enforcement action has been in decline for four the past years.

 

During the course of the presentation, it was highlighted that there are increasing numbers of instances where rogue landlords and builders are able to avoid sanction simply because the level of enforcement is declining and they deem the risk of sanction to be low. The City Council have financial pressures and may well be behind this lack of activity. Many of these extensions and renovations are poorly constructed and represent a fire and safety risk to occupiers and adjacent properties. The absence of independent building inspection is a key cause of this problem continuing.

 

The building companies and landlords who exploit these loopholes do so safe in the knowledge of the lack of enforcement. It was suggested that existing legislation does not offer a strong enough option to counter the breaches of which there are over two hundred ongoing enforcement cases in Selly Oak including a couple in Warwards Lane. Article 4 serves as a mechanism to restrict the number of HMO’s (Homes of Multiple Occupancy) but this legislation relates to the nature of use for separate unrelated tenants sharing the same property. The two concerns, however, remain linked to a degree.

 

Steve McCabe outlined his belief that there would be a long-term consequence to allowing the misuse of permitted development in that existing housing stock being converted to apartments (flats) would reduce the number of houses available for families. This would affect the character of the area, as it would increase the transient nature of the local population, added to which the nature of student accommodation is also changing. Student accommodation is becoming more bespoke meaning that the demand for HMO type accommodation amongst students is deteriorating which means there could well be more empty HMO properties in future.

This may well lead to the ghettoisation of Selly Oak and the surrounding area. Steve McCabe will be presenting his idea for the new Bill on 24th November 2015 which contains the following key points -:

  1. Provide clear local government guidance
  2. Allow for the right of appeal to an independent body where breaches have not been pursued by the planning authority
  3. Require robust building regulation and safety checks and
  4. New powers to fine developers breaching the planning laws

Steve McCabe stated from the outset of the meeting that even adopting all of these proposals would not improve the situation entirely to everyone’s satisfaction but it would serve as a means to reduce the incidence of rogue development of property in the ways outlined above. Everyone was also encouraged to report the skip providers providing details of the company name and telephone number to the City Council and HMRC. There were several residents from Warwards Lane in attendance and we all supported the campaign by appearing in a photograph holding the poster we had been provided with at the start.

 

The meeting then closed.