Southend Council slammed over HMO ‘incompetence’

Council bosses admitted to their own “incompetence” for failing to stop the illegal running of ten-bedroom bedsits in Southend.

Southend City Council’s development control committee gave approval for 222 Southchurch Road to operate as a ten-bedroom house in multiple occupation during a meeting where they raised concerns about similar schemes operating around the city.

The house in multiple occupation (HMO), which currently has eight rooms, operated under the radar for 21 years and was only discovered when its elderly owner died.

Retrospective planning permission was refused in March but the council heard the period of limitation for the council to have intervened was ten years.

A new plan for ten en-suite rooms with the addition of an open plan kitchen and dining area, was therefore agreed reluctantly by councillors who judged the application to be an improvement to the current dilapidated building.

Matt Dent, Southend Labour and Co-operative councillor for Kursaal ward, expressed his astonishment the HMO could have operated for so long without coming to the council’s attention.

He said: “It makes the council look like a bunch of incompetents.

“I knew it was an HMO, the neighbours all knew it was an HMO, everyone in the area knew it was an HMO.

“On that basis I’m forced to wonder how many other blindingly obvious HMOs that haven’t got any permission and haven’t got the relevant licenses are sitting out there that we don’t know about.

“We are talking about a ten-bedroom HMO with no parking provision, in an area which has significant parking pressure already

“All in all I find this application deeply unsatisfactory.

“Whatever the reservations I have and others have about this application, the alternative is that the property can continue as it has been for the past 21 years in an even less satisfactory state providing even less satisfactory accommodation.”

Tricia Cowdrey, Labour councillor for the same ward, said: “Kursaal ward is already saturated with homes of multiple occupancy, some of which house our most vulnerable residents and many of which require support.

“This responsibility falls to the landlord but ultimately places a huge strain on council services in relation to antisocial behaviour and social care services.”

Only one councillor voted against the scheme.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter