Downend bedsit development approved despite parking and privacy objections

September 05 2021
Downend bedsit development approved despite parking and privacy objections

A DEVELOPMENT of ten bedsits can go ahead in a Downend street, despite more than a dozen objections from neighbours.

A three-storey building containing two five-bedroom houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) can be built in Dial Lane, a cul-de-sac opposite Downend Cricket Club, after plans were approved by South Gloucestershire Council.

Residents raised concerns over privacy and parking, and the development was likened to a “hostel” by Downend and Bromley Heath Parish Council, which also objected to the plans.

The consent allows owners Jeff Mapstone and Antony Bleakman of SWS Developments Ltd, which manufactures mezzanine floors at the site, to demolish their existing workshop and replace it with a three-storey building, with a smaller business operating on the ground floor and two HMOs above.

Both HMOs – one on the first floor and another on the second floor – will have five bedrooms each, with shared communal facilities, and balconies to the rear.

Speaking for the applicants, John Sneddon told a planning committee on Thursday: “The proposal will deliver a commercial unit and much-needed residential accommodation during a housing crisis, in a highly sustainable location on a brownfield site.

“And if there are parking issues, I think you have the power to solve those through yellow lines and so forth.” 

A condition on the planning consent limits the number of occupants to one per bedroom, a maximum of ten altogether.

Five parking spaces are provided at the front of the property, which complies with council policy, and the business will be able to park one vehicle inside, within its roller doors.

The 13 residents who opposed the application cited “insufficient parking” among other objections, which included concerns about a loss of privacy, views and natural light for neighbours.

The parish council said the development would be “overbearing and out of keeping with the local area” and would add to traffic “bottlenecks” in Dial Lane.

Parish council planning committee chair Phillip Abbott said there was so little street parking on the road that drivers had to wait until someone else left to find a space.

“These HMOs will only add to the residents’ woes,” he said. “It appears it has been designed to maximise revenue at the expense of space and provision of quality accommodation and adequate parking spaces.

“It should be called a hostel.”

The proposals were a revised version of plans previously rejected by South Gloucestershire Council for their impact on the character of the area, residents’ living conditions, and a protected beech tree.

The committee heard the revisions created more communal space, preserved a protected tree, created a bigger gap between the building and the next door neighbours, and added screens to the rear balconies to protect their privacy.

Officers recommended the amended proposals for approval, although the urban design officer still had concerns about parking and the amount of living space for occupants, according to a planning report.

There are no locally or nationally prescribed living space standards for HMOs, the meeting heard.

A planning officer said the HMOs were “quite a decent size” and had “quite a generous garden”.

The committee approved the application by six votes to one. One councillor abstained.

Councillor Brian Hopkinson (Con, Charlton and Cribbs) said: “I see really no problem with this one. I’d much rather see young people in a home with respect for themselves rather than sleeping in the streets.”

Cllr Ernie Brown (Con, Stoke Gifford) said he was “very concerned” about parking but that there was nothing else the committee could do given the council had “poor parking policies”.

He said: “Here you have got ten bedrooms, ten people, which means you could have ten cars. Our policies are just not good enough to deal with these type of properties.”

By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service