Southend Council rejects 15-bed HMO that could turn road into a ‘no-go area’

Southend City Council has rejected plans to turn a former hotel into 15 bedsits to prevent the road becoming a “no-go area”.

The development control committee rejected plans to turn 13 Cobham Road, Westcliff into a 15-bedroom House of Multiple Occupation (HMO), despite a recommendation for approval.

Addressing the committee on Wednesday, Stephen Habermel, Southend Mayor and Conservative councillor for Chalkwell Ward, said the HMO would remove visitor accommodation in a key seafront tourism area against council policy.

He added: “Over the last three years, Cobham Road has fallen victim to an influx of applications for HMOs and care homes, many of them from out of town landlords who seem to have no particular interest in regenerating the area.

“Residents are concerned about the loss of a potential hotel they also see this application as a lost opportunity that could provide two and three-bedroom accommodation that is needed in Southend.

“Instead of this we are faced with a high-density scenario, fitting as many people as possible in shared living accommodation. Only a year ago this committee approved a ten-bedroom HMO only 50 yards away.”

Ron Woodley, Residents First councillor for Thorpe Ward, said another HMO in the road could turn it into a no-go area for residents. He said: “When do we as a council and a planning authority decide enough is enough with HMOs being proposed and granted planning permission to the detriment of the residents that actually live in the area?

“When are we going to see policies that stop this or reduce the amount of HMOs being built?”

Cllr Woodley added: “Are we saying, as a council and a committee, that if people let their properties deteriorate then they can do whatever they want? It’s in a bad state of repair and because of that we are going to let it turn into an HMO.

“We need to enforce the fact this was a hotel and should remain a hotel for our visitors.”

Carole Mulroney, Lib Dem councillor for Leigh Ward, said: “What’s better, to have something that is in use or to have what is becoming a derelict property?

“Nowadays because of the housing crisis and the cost of mortgages there are far more professional people living in shared housing than there ever has been before.”

A motion to refuse the application and keep the building as a hotel was supported by ten councillors to two.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter