Agenda item

Petition Requesting an Article 4 Direction and to Register All Houses in Multiple Occupation in Heathrow Villages


Councillors Ali Milani, Peter Money and June Nelson attended the meeting and spoke as Ward Councillors in support of the petition. 


Concerns and suggestions raised at the meeting included the following:

·         Residents were asking for action to help safeguard their community in Heathrow Villages Ward by dealing with the unlicensed / unregistered HMOs in the area;

·         The petition organiser had circulated additional information about the issues faced by petitioners which had been forwarded to the Cabinet Member in advance of the meeting;

·         It was noted that the transient nature of many of those who lived in Heathrow Villages Ward had not helped with community cohesion / identity and families had been forced out of the area;

·         It was recognised that an Article 4 Direction had been introduced in Brunel Ward to alleviate the impact of HMOs on the local community.  It was suggested that the transient workers in Heathrow Villages created a similar situation to that created by the 13,500 students at Brunel and the impact that the introduction of an Article 4 Directive might have on neighbouring wards was not a good enough reason to reject the option.  It was thought that the impact of transient workers was two to three times greater on the lives, safety and cleanliness of the local community in Heathrow Villages than the ‘studentification’ in Brunel had been.  As such, the introduction of an Article 4 Directive would have an even more profoundly positive effect on the lives of residents in the local area;

·         It was suggested that the introduction of the following would help: a private property licence scheme; an emergency Article 4 Directive to withdraw permitted development rights; and all outbuildings be restricted to no more than 6ft with no water supply;

·         Heathrow airport, along with numerous hotels and businesses in the area and good transport links, provided significant employment opportunities (approximately 76,000 employees) which resulted in a higher than average number of rental properties in the area (some of which were rented to private hire vehicle drivers);

·         Concern was expressed that landlords profited from the lack of restrictions that were in place and that the true number of HMOs was unknown and therefore went unmonitored.  The volume of HMOs in Heathrow Villages had led to an increase in the amount of littering, use of public bins for domestic waste, vermin, parking and congestion and a decline in housing conditions;

·         Wards Councillors had been reporting HMOs for a number of years and been told by Council officers that these properties were under investigation;

·         The high number of short term tenancies had translated into an increase in fly-tipping (instances of which had been reported through Members’ Enquiries) and had resulted in permanent residents being surrounded by strangers;

·         Concern was expressed that Harmondsworth Village was in a conservation area but that it was being run down; and

·         It was noted that similar measures were being taken in the area surrounding Gatwick airport.


Councillor Burrows listened to the concerns of the petitioners and responded to the points raised.  He noted that the introduction of an Article 4 Directive would not prevent the creation of HMOs and each application would need to be considered on its merits.  In addition, the Directive would not apply to those properties that had already been designated as HMOs before its introduction and the Council would not be able to control who owned the properties. 


Before an application for an Article 4 Directive could be submitted, the Council would need to investigate all other options available to it.  Following consideration by Cabinet and Council (and a 12 month consultation exercise), an Article 4 Directive would then ultimately be decided by the Secretary of State who would be likely to consider an application for Heathrow Villages in great detail, given its proximity to the airport.  As such, the evidence base to support the application for an Article 4 Directive in Heathrow Villages would need to be comprehensive.  Furthermore, as the process would take a minimum of 18 months (as was the case for Brunel), there would be nothing to stop landlords from applying for their properties to become HMOs before the end of the consultation period to avoid the associated additional restrictions. 


Whilst it was appreciated that some of the transient workers that had moved to the area were living with unrelated others in HMOs, there were still some who brought their whole families which would then not constitute an HMO.  Officers faced the challenge of differentiating between genuine temporary family homes and those that were HMOs.  Furthermore, not all landlords in Heathrow Villages were bad and it was important to not penalise those good landlords that provided families with a valuable service.  It was important to ensure that an effective enforcement regime was in place. 


Although there were not a large number of planning enforcement cases currently ongoing, it was noted that there had been a lot of planning history in relation to the property at 66 Hatch Lane.  Mr Haslam, the Council’s Private Sector Housing Manager, advised that there were currently 32 licensed HMOs in Heathrow Villages and that officers were investigating a large number of unlicensed premises in the area.  He noted that a hefty financial penalty had recently been levied on an HMO landlord in Heathrow Villages. 


Mr Rodger, the Council’s Head of Planning, Transportation and Regeneration, advised that there was a live panning application for a 10+ bed HMO at Manor Lodge.  The application sought to convert the building to a smaller number of larger units.  Officers had not yet made recommendations in relation to the application but it was noted that, if approved, it would change the character of the property.  Petitioners were advised that the application would be considered by Members on the Major Applications Planning Committee in due course. 


Officers would need to undertake further targeted outreach work to identify unlicensed HMOs in the Heathrow Villages area.  The officer team had recently been restructured and there had been an exponential increase in the volume of work undertaken over the last six months.  A number of areas and specific properties had already been identified for inspection and this would be undertaken in the near future.


The Cabinet Member asked officers to prepare an evidence base to support an Article 4 Directive application for him to consider.  In addition, he asked officers to ensure that they utilised all other options available to them to tackle unlicensed HMOs.  Councillor Burrows would continue discussions with officers about the matter and Ward Councillors would be kept updated on any progress.  He noted that, once the evidence had been collected, an informed decision would need to be made as to whether it was sufficient to take forward.  The Cabinet Member reiterated that his decision did not give residents an Article 4 Directive but that the Council would continue to use all of the powers available to it to stop unlicensed HMOs. 


Those present were advised that the Brunel Liaison Group had been set up prior to the agreement of the Brunel Article 4 Directive.  The application had been helped by the fact that Brunel University had been a major stakeholder and had been supportive of the Directive.  It was thought that Heathrow airport might be less supportive of similar measures in Heathrow Villages. 


RESOLVED:  Meeting with the petitioners, the Cabinet Member for Planning, Transportation and Recycling:


1.            listened to the concerns outlined and reasons put forward by residents for an Article 4 Direction and registration of HMO properties. 


2.            considered the wider implications of imposing an Article 4 Direction on Heathrow Villages Ward and surrounding wards.


3.            noted that the evidential base likely to be required to ensure the Secretary of State agrees an Article 4 Direction in Heathrow Villages would need to be fully established before Cabinet or Full Council could proceed to agree such a direction or to notify the Secretary of State.


4.                    noted that, on 1 October 2018, the Council adopted the power under the Housing and Planning Act to impose financial penalties on landlords who are required to license HMOs and fail to do so.


5.                    instructed officers to prepare the evidence base for creation of an Article 4 Direction for him to consider further and instructed officers to pursue any other actions available to the Council to address the petitioners concerns regarding HMOs.


Reasons for recommendations


The Petition Hearing will provide a valuable opportunity to hear directly from the petitioners of their concerns and suggestions.


Alternative options considered / risk management


None at this stage.

Supporting documents: