A planning application for a 12 bedroom house of multiple application at the former pub at No. 1 Oxton Road has been thrown out. Planning officers at Wirral Council recommended the plans for approval. However, I had major concerns about this application so took it out of delegation so it would be considered by the planning committee. Thankfully councillors agreed with my arguments and refused the plans.
No. 1 Oxton Road is a fantastic building with huge potential for a high quality residential conversion. Lets hope the next application for this site reflects that potential and helps to lift up rather than drag down Charing Cross.
Wirral Leaks has picked up on this story which you can read here.
You can read my arguments against this application below. The original planning officer's report can be accessed via this link
APP/16/01372: 1 Oxton Road, CH41 2QQ. Change of use from public house with residential accommodation above to two commercial units (A1 - Retail and A3 - Restaurant) at ground floor and 12 HMO bedsits on first and second floor.
1. Precedent. While we need to consider each application on its merits there are clear parallels between this and several previous applications most recently the former police station on Laird Street. That application was for 10 bedrooms over two floors. This one is for 12 bedrooms over two floors. The Laird Street application was rejected due to its
- insufficient size
- over intensive use of the property
- inadequate number of washing/toilet facilities
2. External Environment. Even before we consider the internal layout of this application its fair to say that any future residents face significant impediments to a good quality of life:
- noise and air pollution from the busy town centre junction
- anti-social behaviour hotspot
- above a take away open till 11.30pm
- complete lack of outdoor amenity space
As councillors do we want the standard of housing to reflect the existing problems within the area or do we want it to help lift the area and signal its potential for improvement. The answer I'm sure is obvious particularly as in this case we are dealing with a building of "architectural merit" as it is correctly described in the officer's report.
3. Internal Layout. In terms of the internal layout we have on the first floor:
- two small kitchens
- split level flooring which effectively separates bedrooms 3&4 from bedrooms 5-9.
- long way from the single lounge to bedrooms 6,7,8 & 9.
- bedroom 3 is an odd, irregular shape.
On the second floor:
- also split level
- one bathroom for five bedrooms
- single kitchen open to small lounge
Wirral Churches Ark Project is currently renovating Mary Cole House for the homeless in Birkenhead. In that case shared bathroom facilities are being designed out. Should we be facilitating designing back in such facilities?
4. External environment. As for the back yard I wasn't the only one to notice the poor condition of the fire escape. I would also strongly question whether the rear area could possible accommodate the required bins plus the conditioned bicycle storage.
There will very soon be a new supermarket opening nearby on Oxton Road which is likely to significantly increase foot fall in this area. I know that existing businesses are very keen to see improvements in the street scene that will give a much needed boost to the commercial environment.
5. Number of occupants. Some of the bedrooms are very large. It seemed from the furniture already in situ that some rooms are intended to accommodate more then one person. Clearly this would further undermine the ratio of bathrooms and kitchens per person. I have therefore asked for a condition to be added that, should the application be approved, limits the number of occupants to 12.
This building has huge potential to provide attractive residential accommodation and would really suit conversion into apartments. I would encourage the applicant to look again at plans for the building.
6. Reasons for refusal
The National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 9 states that:
"pursuing sustainable development involves.....improving the conditions in which people live and widening the choice of quality homes."
I think this application clearly fails to meet both those aspirations. I would therefore move refusal on the following grounds:
Having regards to the number of bedrooms proposed, the property is considered to be of insufficient size to accommodate the proposed development. The development would result in an over-intensive use of the property by creating 12 bedrooms for which, given the potential number of occupants, the proposed number of washing/toilet facilities is considered to be inadequate, resulting in a standard of accommodation that the Council considers would be substandard contrary to the objectives of Policy HS14 of the Wirral Unitary Development Plan and the principles of the National Planning Policy Framework, which seeks to secure high quality accommodation and a good standard of amenity for all future occupants of land and buildings.