Wednesday, 1 August 2007

First results of survey

Why do landlords really want to alter houses in Stamford Hill?

This letter has been sent to all councillors, planning enforcement, environmental heath and the mayor today. It shows the first results of a survey of our local streets. Please let us know about your survey work and we can do one of these for every street.

From the Triangle Community Group

30 July 2007

Dear Councillors, planning enforcement and environmental health

As consequence of the council's production of the Local Development Framework and the proposed 'area of exception' a group of residents in Amhurst Park, Bethune Road, Bergholt Crescent, Cranwich Road, Denver Road, Durley Road and Dunsmure Road have formed the 'Triangle Community Group'. As part of our campaign against the area of exception and to maintain the same rules for our streets as those that apply in the rest of the borough we have begun to undertake a detailed survey of our streets. We believe that this will produce evidence to refute the suggestion by the council that our streets have already been blighted by inappropriate developments and that the area of exception is needed due to the needs of large families.

Our experience is that large houses in this area are in fact being bought up by landlords and extended and then converted into flats and bed-sits. If the council wishes to ensure that there are sufficient large properties then the area of exception will be counter-productive and instead action should be taken to prevent regulated and unregulated conversions from taking place.

Some of these large houses appear to be operating unlawfully as unlicensed HMOs. They are badly supervised and tend to create a noise and environmental nuisance. We wish to draw your attention to three. The results of our full survey will be sent to you in due course.

Of the 90-plus Victorian and Edwardian houses in Cranwich Road, the only ones we are aware of which have been the subject of planning applications, which would lead to over-development, are number 52 (which we believe has been converted, unlawfully, into flats, and is currently the subject of a Council order), number 3, and 7.

No. 3 Cranwich Road: Currently being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
HMO licence applied for and currently being processed by the Council. This has a notably dilapidated appearance and is overflowing rubbish bins. There have already been several complaints to Environmental Health yet no action has been taken.

Planning issues
In November 2006, and again in January 2007, the owner-applicant, stated that the existing use of No. 3 was as a 'single family dwelling'. This is not the case. The owner also gave No. 3 as his own address. His actual family dwelling is elsewhere in Stamford Hill.

In both cases, the application was for 'ground and first floor rear extension and erection of two rear dormers'; in both cases the Council, to its credit, turned the application down, citing the policies of the UDP.

We do not believe that this was a genuine family-type application of the kind that it is claimed justify the proposal for an 'area of exception'. On the contrary it is an example of an absentee landlord acting as a property developer seeking to maximise their income at the cost of both local residents and tenants.

This kind of thing actively needs to be discouraged, both for the sake of Hackney's administration and for the sake, also, of accountability and good management of our streets. Please note that a similar false application with a wrong Certificate 'A' has recently been made for No. 68 Cranwich Road (an infill of nearly all the back garden). The planning department is aware of this.

No. 5 Cranwich Road: Currently being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
We believe that this property has been operating as a HMO since April 2006 without a licence and is in a dilapidated and unkempt state. There are recurrent problems with rubbish. The house is divided into four flats, at least one of which we believe has housed five tenants.

Planning issues
The deeds show that property was previously owned by Hackney Council and was transferred to a religious trust in November/December, 2002. Planning permission for a pre-school and primary school for 100 pupils was immediately applied for, and turned down on the grounds that 1) a noisy school was not suitable for a residential area, 2) the large proposed extensions were intrusive and discordant, and 3) 'The proposal represents a cumulative loss of residential buildings.'

It is perhaps surprising, in view of the obvious need for family accommodation in the area that the Charitable Trust then transferred the property in April 2005 to a landlord who we believe has turned it into an unlicensed house in multiple occupation, posing a significant risk to the health and safety of the tenants and providing no increase in the availability of homes for large families in the area.

No. 73 Cranwich Road: Currently being used as a house in multiple occupation (HMO)
We believe that this property has been operating as a HMO since April 2006 without a licence.

In March 1997, a planning application was applied for the basement of number 73 to be converted into two bedsit flats. The application was refused on the grounds that it was 'unacceptable by reason of inadequate natural lighting and size of the kitchen areas, representing an inferior standard of accommodation'. Anyone seeing the basement of number 79 would be bound to agree that the Council was, right to refuse.

Yet neighbours inform us that someone is living in this basement nevertheless. Also scrawled on its door, in large letters in green ink, is 'Flat No. 1 BASEMENT'. The person applying for planning application also filled in the Certificate 'A' form on the planning application stating that he was sole owner of the property. Yet we believe that this is not the case and that the information given to the Planning Department in 1997 was false. The owners, bought the property jointly in February 1997 and live (according to the electoral register) elsewhere in Stamford Hill

We believe that the council should take action to regularise the use of the above properties. We also believe that when it comes to planning applications the council should undertake a routine check to confirm that if the person making the application claims to be living at the property that this is true. A simple paper check with the land registry would not be expensive, and an unannounced site visit by the planning officer (when they are in the already in the area) would help to establish the truth behind some of the applications.

This is particularly important when the main reason for the council proposition that this part of the borough should be exempted from normal planning regulations, is based on the erroneous notion that these building are for extended families in single occupancy. The behaviour of the above landlords exposes the falsity in our area, of the supposed grounds for making our streets part of an 'area of exception'.

If councillors are genuinely representing local people they would see to it that relevant bodies, which include the Planning Department, building control, environmental health and the fire brigade are utilized to ensure that decent standards and statutory obligations are adhered to.

This would benefit of the tenants of these properties, and the majority of residents of Cranwich Road. It may prove unpopular with a small number of rogue landlords, but why should the council's policies be set to please landlords who are already flouting the rules?

Yours sincerely

Jane Holgate
On behalf of the Triangle community group

Encl. Documents on each of these properties have been sent by post to the planning department and environmental health department.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

what is wrong with the basement of 79. it looks ok from the outside. whats the problem?