A move has been made in Reading to crack down on landlords turning family homes into flats.

It’s no secret that the town has a large number of houses which have been converted into flats.

These can either be houses which have been converted into self-contained flats or houses in multiple occupations (HMOs) with shared facilities.

These shared facilities can vary from just being a kitchen and living area to shared toilet and wash facilities in cases.

A landlord can convert a house into flats or a HMO for up to six people without needing planning permission, as such conversions are considered permitted development according to government rules.

However, these can be limited in areas with an ‘Article 4 direction.’

In these areas, planning permission is required for the conversion to go ahead.

Reading Chronicle: The 53 areas covered in the Article 4 Direction Reading Borough Council has made. Credit: Reading Borough Council / Ordnance SurveyThe 53 areas covered in the Article 4 Direction Reading Borough Council has made. Credit: Reading Borough Council / Ordnance Survey

Currently, an Article 4 direction applies in an area covering Redlands, Park and Katesgrove wards which were established in May 2013, with Jesse Terrace in Abbey ward being added in February 2017.

Now, Reading Borough Council has approved a policy to have a limit on flat and HMO conversions to 25 per cent of homes within Article 4 areas.

This curbing of the amount of flat and HMO conversions was made as the council has changed its ‘Residential Conversions Supplementary Planning Document’.

READ MORE: 'Targets missed': Council called out over lack of affordable homes built in Reading

The document is part of the Reading Local Plan, which was adopted in 2019 but has undergone an update.

Changes made to the document also remove language that states that HMOs are ‘suitable’ for students.

Now, the document states they are ‘sought’ by students instead.

The full wording is: “Reading is home to the University of Reading, as well as Reading College.

“Residential conversions, often in the form of HMOs, provide accommodation sought by students who often spend some time at University in shared houses.”

Commenting on this change, Micky Leng (Labour, Whitley) lead councillor for planning said: “Just because something is sought doesn’t mean it’s suitable.

"So there’s a slight change in language. I’m always one for that, because I’m into subliminal messaging.”

The document also lays out what rooms within houses are suitable for conversions.

It notes that basement conversions can be ‘deficient’ when it comes to daylight provision, outlook and headroom, and that loft conversions, even those with dormers, are not always suitable ‘as they often result in a cramped form of living space’. 

Referring to the policies, cllr Leng said: “If I’m marking it out of 100, it would be 100.5.”

After that, committee chairman cllr Paul Gittings quipped: “That’s for the committee to judge cllr Leng!”

The policies contained in the  ‘Residential Conversions Supplementary Planning Document’ were approved unanimously by the council’s strategic environment, planning and transport (SEPT) committee on March 23.