Westcliff flats conversion could face council action

The owners of a semi-detached house which was turned into five flats without planning permission more than 15 years ago could face enforcement action.

An application for a “certificate of lawfulness” for 9 Palmerston Avenue in Westcliff, which has been converted to be used as five flats, has been refused by planning officers.

The two-storey, semi-detached building that was previously used as a single dwelling within the Leas Conservation Area.

Permission was granted in 1988 to convert the house into one flat and one maisonette. A subsequent application to convert it into five flats was refused in 2004 – but work still went ahead.

The council had received two letters objecting to the house being turned into an HMO saying the site had been used as temporary accommodation and there were concerns about noise, rubbish and antisocial behaviour.

To obtain a certificate, the applicant must prove the property has been used as five flats for more than four years.

The applicant provided a building control letter dated June 2013, that stated “while unauthorised building work had been carried out at 9 Palmerston Road, a certain timeframe had lapsed since the work was carried out and as a result enforcement action under the Building Control Act was unlikely to be taken.”

In addition, the five flats were registered for council tax in 2007 – but officers said this was insufficient evidence.

Refusing the application, the planning officer said: “No information or evidence has been submitted by the applicant to support the claims or verify that the flats, subject of the certificate sought, have been used as such for a continuous four year period to the date of the application.

“Documented evidence to seek to demonstrate this could for example be provided by the applicant through tenancy agreements, utility bills, photographs or affidavits none of which were included in the submission.”

The officer added: “Given the lack of submitted evidence as a whole and considering the case in the round the applicant’s case is insufficiently precise and unambiguous in relation to its continuous and uninterrupted use of the site as five flats for a period of at least four years and as such a certificate cannot be granted.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter