Proposed Article 4 Direction, Falmouth

Houses in Multiple Occupation

Falmouth’s reputation as one of the most popular place to live in England has brought bountiful benefits, but also challenges. Its diverse population needs a range of housing solutions, and these need to be carefully balanced throughout the town to ensure a sustainable community and good quality of life for all.

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Its popularity has helped fuel the town’s growing needs for housing: the latest draft of the Cornwall Local Plan identifies a need for 2,800 houses in Falmouth and neighbouring Penryn. Falmouth Town Council is ensuring the community can steer what future development delivers in Falmouth via a ‘Neighbourhood Plan’.

One of the key priorities for Falmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan is to ensure its different demographics have their needs met in a sustainable manner. In May and June 2015, residents were asked their views on a range of housing questions – and over thirteen hundred residents responded.

These questions sought to identify areas of Falmouth where the balance of the community or character of the area is at risk of being harmed by unbalanced concentrations of accommodation and occupancy types. Views were sought on buildings, refuse storage, care and maintenance of gardens and communal areas, conflicting waking hours and concentrations of shared houses.

Falmouth has almost half of all Cornwall’s registered Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs), a form of large house-share. This may explain why 63% of respondents (826) felt HMOs should be controlled via the planning process (using an ‘Article 4 Direction); and over half of respondents (696) gave additional views on the subject. Of these, 91% felt community balance and 81% felt the character of the area were being harmed.

Converting a family home into a HMO is typically a permitted development – meaning planning permission isn’t needed. One of the exceptions to this rule is when a Local Planning Authority introduces an Article 4 Direction. On request from Falmouth Town Council, Cornwall Council propose introducing an Article 4 Direction in Falmouth, meaning – in just over a year’s time – planning permission would be needed for this change of use.

HMOs often provide housing for students and young people, who are unable to access another form of home. They therefore provide a vital part of Falmouth’s housing mix, but evidence suggests that large numbers of HMOs located in concentrated areas of Falmouth is having an adverse effect on the mix of housing use in the community; and they are also limiting the supply of family homes coming on to the housing market and rental housing for families.

From research carried out for the emerging Neighbourhood Plan in January 2015, 112 HMO’s were found to be located in a cluster of roads in Falmouth. The percentage of HMO’s in these roads ranged from 12% in Vernon Place to 24% in Budock Terrace.

The Article 4 would require new HMOs that fall into the Dwelling Use Class C4 – “Houses in Multiple Occupation with between 3 and 6 unrelated individuals, who share basic amenities” – irrespective of the number of storeys, to apply for planning permission.

Sitting alongside the Article 4 will be Falmouth’s Neighbourhood Plan. The Neighbourhood Plan will set out where HMOs would and would not be permitted. Planning applications will be assessed against the policies set out in that plan. The intention isn’t to prevent HMOs, as they are recognised as a vital element of Falmouth’s housing options. The Article 4 will be used to maintain a balanced and sustainable mix of housing options in particular locations by ensuring HMOs don’t reach unsustainable levels in concentrated areas.

The direction removes permitted development rights for the change of use from a use falling within Class C3 to a use falling within Class C4 (Houses of Multiple Occupation).  More details can be found in the Site Notice and Direction. The Artilce 4(1) direction comes into force on 16 June 2017.

Falmouth’s high concentrations of HMOs have been identified via the surveys and community consultation, such as Marlborough Road; Trelawney Road; Budock Terrace; Albany Road; Killigrew Street; Trevethgan Road; Wood Lane; Old Hill; New Street; and Lister Street.

Site notice (confirmed)

Direction confirmed under Article 4(1) including map 

Falmouth's emerging Neighbourhood Plan, including details of how Falmouth residents can shape their town's future.