Present:

As identified on the Attendance List):

OARA Residents

Alma Road

  • Peter Wirgman
  • Chris Jackson
  • Dave Rounce
  • Barbara Matcham

Avenue Road

  • Fiona Barnes
  • Helen Muscat
  • Richard Hill
  • Kate Laven
  • Harald Raykowski
  • Liz Haslam

Gordon Avenue

  • Sue Swallow
  • Barbara Sheppard
  • Dorothy Haslehurst
  • Chris Hawthorn

Earls Road

  • Richard Long
  • Susan Silva

OARA Committee

  • Gordon Gillies (Chair)
  • T Jacobs (Membership Secretary)
  • Andy Haslehurst (Treasurer)
  • Lynn Murphy (Secretary)
  • Rosy Maguire (Committee Member)
  • Phine Dahle (Committee Member)

Southampton City Council

  • Chris Lyons (Planning & Dev. Mgr)

Hampshire Police

  • PC Steve Blandford

Other Attendees

  • Frankie Fry (SUSU)
  • Alistair Campbell (Arnold Road)

Apologies:

  • Cllrs Burke, Barnes-Andrews and Rayment
  • Matt Conrad, Petrina Boddington, Heather Soper, (Residents)

1 Welcome

Gordon opened the meeting by welcoming all of the attendees. The apologies were given.

1.1 Announcements

Gordon announced with sadness the death of one of our Street Reps – Kevin Sharpe from Livingstone Road.

He also announced that Richard Hill (Vice-Chair) and Paula Noyce (Minutes Secretary) were standing down from Committee duties due to pressure of work.

2 Planning Issues

2.1 Chris Lyons, Planning and Development Manager for SCC

Gordon introduced Chris Lyons, the Planning and Development Manager for Southampton City Council. Chris briefly outlined the areas that he covers in his role but said that he was present to discuss two specific issues – Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs).

2.2 HMOs

An HMO is defined as a house where unrelated people live together and who are sharing amenities ie: shared kitchen, bathroom and living space. Chris stated that there are two different types of HMO.

2.2.1 3 to 6 people sharing

A house containing 3 to 6 people doesn’t currently need planning permission. However, from 23 March 2012, any landlord wishing to rent a property to 3 to 6 unrelated people WILL need to apply for planning permission.

2.2.2 7 plus people sharing

A landlord wishing to let a house to more than 7 people requires planning permission now.

2.3 Consideration for granting planning permission for 3-6 person HMOs

Chris said that the council were currently considering how the planning permission for 3-6 person HMOs would be granted. There will be an increase in demand for HMOs from the 20-29 age group; comprising mainly students, young professionals and those on housing benefits.

He explained that a consultation document would be released in mid December and the consultation period would be for 6 weeks. He stressed that it was very important that all Residents Associations made their views known so that they could be considered for the final proposal

2.4 Method for determining current density of HMOs

The current proposal is to consider the number of current HMOs in an area as a percentage of the total number of buildings within a radius of 40m from the proposed new HMO.

For Portswood, Bassett and Swaythling, the proposed HMO threshold will be 10%; for all other areas of the city, it will be 20%.

However, from the council’s perspective, it is difficult to determine whether a house is an HMO or not. There is no HMO register and there are no plans to develop one as occupancy constantly changes.

Chris stressed that the council isn’t able to charge the landlords for considering the planning permission.

2.5 Standards for HMOs

Other factors that will be considered when an HMO planning application is received are:

  • The number of parking spaces. There will be a maximum of two parking spaces for a 4 person HMO, and a maximum of 3 spaces for 4 or more people.
  • An HMO must have a fire escape.
  • The rooms will have to be of a certain size
  • There will be standards for the amenities eg: number of bathrooms etc.

2.6 Questions

Chris was asked a number of questions and these are summarised in the table below.

Question Answer
1. Some of the gardens in the area are very big and 40m might mean that very few properties come within the radius Agreed – the council would look to count the 10 nearest properties outside of the garden
2. Can there be different thresholds for different parts of the city? No – only the 10% and 20% outlined above.
3. Can you confirm that HMOs don’t pay council tax? No, they don’t.
4. Does the council have any registered HMOs? Yes, but the register only applies to three storied HMOs and above.
5. Is it correct that SCC won’t earn any money from the new planning regulations Yes – the council can’t charge the normal fee for HMO planning applications.  This is set nationally.
6. Gordon Avenue and Livingstone Road already have more than 50% HMOs.  What will happen to these areas? The planning regulations can’t be applied retrospectively, but will be going forward.  If the HMO density is over 50% now, the new regulations should mean that there will be no further HMOs allowed, so long as the criteria are met (see above).
7. Is there a list of landlords? The Housing teams know of the names of many of the landlords, but there isn’t a formal list.
8. If the council sees an advert for a shared house, can it ask if it’s an HMO Yes, it can.
9. Where our area has so many HMOs already, could this mean a blanket “no” for any further HMOs? No, the 40m rule will have to be applied each time.
10. How firm is the threshold rule? The thresholds haven’t been fixed yet, but they will be after the conclusion of the consultation period.
11. Are there any special circumstances where the rules would be relaxed? Yes.  If an area already has a very high density of HMOs eg: 98%, an owner occupier could claim that they wouldn’t be able to sell their house as a house rather than an HMO.  However, they could sell it to an landlord for an HMO if the rules were disregarded in these circumstances
12. Once granted, does the planning permission always apply? Yes.  A landlord could apply for an HMO and be granted one.  They could then let the house to a family for a period, and then let it again to students without having to apply again for planning permission.
13. There are some very poor landlords currently.  Is there any way of dealing with them? Only going forward.  The rules cannot be applied retrospectively.
14. Where is the consultation document going to be advertised? It will be sent to all RAs, the universities, landlord groups and in the papers.
15. Is there any opportunity for SUSU to have a say in the size of the room standards? Yes.
16. People don’t need planning permission to do up a house.  What’s to stop a landlord moving people in after refurbishment when they haven’t applied for planning permission? Landlords can apply retrospectively, and if they are under the threshold (10% or 20%), they don’t have to apply anyway.
17. How many HMOs are there across the city? The last survey was in 2008 and HMOs accounted for 9.5% of the total housing stock, but this was only accurate at that point.
18. Too many HMOs can totally destroy a community so it is costly now The council can only prevent this going forward, not retrospectively.
19. Has the council looked at what other councils are doing? Yes, 6 or 7 similar cities have been reviewed.
20. There are too many “To Let” signs and they are being erected earlier each year.  What’s the law on this? Chris didn’t know but agreed to find out.Action: Chris Lyons
21. Landlords are upset now at the new parking regulations.  How are they going to comply with the new parking requirements? The number of parking spaces per HMO is a maximum, not a minimum.
22. Has there been a rush of applications? No, because they don’t need to have planning permission now.
23. Will the council consider the carbon footprint of HMOs? Yes, but it is likely that an HMO is more carbon efficient than several separate dwellings.
24. If there is one family house in a ghetto of HMOs, will such areas be identified in the consultation document? No, but such areas would be considered on an individual case by case basis.
25. Why has a threshold of 10% been put forward for Portswood? Because it is already an area of high density HMOs.
26. What is covered by the council’s definition of Portswood Chris didn’t know but agreed to find out.Action: Chris Lyons
27. Do the thresholds apply to the conservation areas as well? Yes

To conclude, Chris invited the audience to send any further questions to him through Gordon.
Action: all residents to think of planning questions they would like answering to be sent to Gordon by 16th December 11.
Action: Gordon to forward on such questions to Chris Lyons

3 Residents’ Parking Scheme in Fordon avenue and Alma Road

Gordon explained that a number of questions about residents’ parking schemes had been sent to Chris prior to the meeting so that he could address them quickly. In summary, they were:

  1. How long will the study into the feasibility of introducing a residents’ parking scheme take and when is it likely to start?
    Average time to introduce a new scheme is two years. 
  2. What factors will the feasibility study consider?
    Accident statistics, commuter overspill, effect on the amenities of the area, has to be enforceable.
  3. How will the council decide the hours of the operation of the scheme?
    The times are governed by trying to prevent commuter parking, and enforcement wardens rarely work after 18:00.
  4. On what grounds would the council decide not to go ahead with a residents’ parking scheme?
    It wouldn’t go ahead if residents or pedestrians were disadvantaged.  The RA should remember that the scheme could actually reduce the number of parking spaces available.Also, the council needs a 75% response rate with between 50% and 60% supporting the proposals. In areas of high HMOs, the response rate tends to be poor.  Landlords get one vote per property

As the meeting was running out of time, Gordon asked for any further questions to be directed to him, by 16th December, so that he could forward them on to Chris.
Action: All to provide questions; Gordon to forward them on.

Gordon thanked Chris on behalf of the RA for his time. Chris then left the meeting.

4 OARA Committee

Gordon explained that the number of Committee members had reduced to six due to personal commitments.

4.1 Minutes and membership Secretary

He proposed that the position of Membership Secretary and Minutes Secretary be combined into a single post. This was agreed by a show of hands. He then proposed that T Jacobs, the current Membership Secretary and Vice Minutes Secretary be elected to the post. This was approved.

4.2 Planning Officer

Gordon stated that Sue Swallow had been acting in the capacity of Planning Officer for OARA and that he would like her to join the Committee formally. Sue was nominated by Barbara Matcham, and this was seconded. Sue was elected unanimously onto the OARA Committee.

4.3 Vice Chairman and other positions

Gordon invited the members of the RA to consider whether they would like to be considered for the post of Vice Chair. There is room on the Committee for a further five positions, and it would be useful to have other points of view.

He suggested that nominations could be proposed at the AGM in January.

5 Projects for 2011

5.1 Greening Group

Phine gave an update on the planters, plant swap and Big Lunch; Sue updated the meeting on the Greening Group’s achievements: Jaz Rai, a local landlord, had donated money for spring bulbs and these had now been planted in the planters at the Alma Road / Gordon Avenue junction. As there was a surplus, some had also been offered to residents to plant in their front gardens.

She said that in order to raise money for further greening activities, the group wants to have a table-top sale in the surgery car park in Alma Road in the new year. Greg Hewitt added that the Transition Group was sponsoring a Treemendous Scheme for cheap trees for people’s gardens.
Action: Gordon to forward on the web address to Sue

Gordon thanked Sue and the group for the great progress that the greening group was making.

He asked for ideas for the table top sale to be brought to the AGM.
Action: everyone

5.2 Street cleaning

The Street Cleaning group had got off to great start, but was rather derailed by the bin strike. Gordon announced that the RA had purchased its own litter pickers, brooms, bags, hoops, shovels and snow shovels. He suggested that these were stored in three or four locations as a resource to be used by the rest of the RA. He volunteered his house; T volunteered hers. It was agreed that we need some kind of register to ensure that people knew who had got what.

Barbara Matcham suggested that we might each want to adopt part of the road in which we live to keep it clean and tidy and this was agreed as a good idea. Barbara asked whether she could have a litter picker.
Action: Gordon to provide Barbara with a litter picking set

It was agreed that we would conduct another street clean in the New Year and Barbara agreed to organise this.
Action: Barbara Matcham

There was some debate about what was happening with the strike as the bin men had rejected the council’s amended proposals.
Action: Gordon to contact our councillors to find out what is happening

Frankie Fry commented that University of Southampton students had been promoting what can now be put into the recycling bins.

6 AGM Arrangements

Gordon stated that the AGM would take place on 24th January and that it would be a brief meeting to elect officers, formally accept the financial accounts for the year, and decide what our projects should be for 2012. There would then be an ordinary RA meeting afterwards. The meeting will be held in the school on Cedar Road.

For the benefit of new attendees, Gordon reminded the meeting of the voluntary annual £3 donation.

7 Any other business

7.1 University of Southampton initiatives

Frankie stated that the union had launched the Community Strategy for Students and the Good Neighbour Policy. Gordon asked for a copy of both.
Action: Frankie to send a copy to Gordon

Frankie said that there was going to be a meeting of the Community Strategy on 15th December and invited residents to attend.

Gordon asked whether it would be possible for someone from the University to attend an OARA meeting. Frankie agreed to find a contact.
Action: Frankie to find a UoS contact and forward it to Gordon

7.2 Antisocial behaviour

Peter Wirgman briefed the meeting on the antisocial behaviour that had been experienced in Alma Road recently where a large party was being held by students. The police and Environmental Health had also become involved. Frankie responded that she had been promoting the Shh campaign vigorously but could not necessarily reach everyone.

7.3 OARA Newsletter

Richard asked whether the newsletter could be put on the website. Gordon agreed that it could and asked for the final copy of it.
Action: Richard to supply the soft copy of the newsletter; Gordon to ask the webmaster to add it our website.

7.4 Link with Portswood RA

Fiona Barnes asked whether we had any formal links as an RA with Portswood. Gordon agreed that we would formally follow this up.
Action: Gordon to contact Portswood RA

7.5 Planning application

Sue updated the meeting on a planning application that she had received that sought to add a single storey extension to a house in Gordon Avenue. Sue agreed to draft a response and sent it to the Committee members by 21st December. Peter Wirgman volunteered his assistance.

The meeting also agreed to create a document to standardise our approach to planning applications. Sue agreed to follow this up and Gordon offered to help if needed.
Action: Sue to propose a planning response document

8 Conclusion

Gordon concluded the meeting by thanking everyone for attending.

8.1 Dates of next meetings

  • Tuesday 24th January 2012

Action: all to note