Neighbours have called for the number of house conversions into flats in their street in Reading to be curtailed.

Conversions of houses into homes of multiple occupations (HMOs) have become a popular way of dividing up larger family properties to house individuals.

An HMO can range from self-contained studio apartments and one-bedroom flats to student housing and homes which have individual bedrooms for occupants but shared facilities such as a communal kitchen.

Neighbours in St Bartholomew’s Road, East Reading have called for the number of HMOs to be limited on their road.

The number of HMOs can be limited using an Article 4 Direction, which imposes limits and controls on HMOs and the conversion of properties for other uses to protect the character of the area.

Reading Borough Council already has a number of areas covered by Article 4 directions to limit conversions of houses into small (three to six-person) HMOs.

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The neighbours have therefore petitioned Reading Borough Council to extend the area or create a new one in which St Bartholomew’s Road fits in.

Hilary Kemp, who has lived in St Bartholomew’s Road for 23 years, said: “We are requesting two things from the council.

“We ask that the council use the powers it already has and already has done so in the local area with Article 4 to keep the current range of housing in St Bartholomew’s Road as it currently is.

“This we feel is an appropriate mix.”

Of the 56 homes on the road, 50 homes are privately owned or rented, with six being licensed HMOs.

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Hilary Kemp stated that the homes were built by George Palmer in the Victorian era, and are mainly two or three bedrooms which she said would be inappropriate for HMO conversion.

In summary, she said: “Lastly, there is no doubt that we need good quality family homes in Reading, we currently have those in St Bartholomew’s Road, right by the park for families to enjoy and close to local schools.

“Let’s not lose any more family homes, let’s protect what we already have, and quickly.”

She presented the petition at a Reading Borough Council policy committee meeting on Monday, July 11.

Micky Leng, lead councillor for planning, responding to the petition, acknowledged that there is good evidence for an Article 4 direction in the area.

However, there are complications in processing an Article 4 direction that make them time-consuming to implement.

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

Councillor Leng (Labour, Whitley) explained: “Undertaking an extension to an Article 4 direction is not a straightforward process.

“National policy states that a direction should be necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of an area, be based on robust evidence, and apply to the smallest geographical area possible.

“Gathering this evidence can take a considerable time and once a direction is made there is a 12-month period before it comes into force to avoid paying possible compensation to landowners.”

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He went on to say that the planning department is currently focused on a partial update of the Local Plan, which will include policies on HMOs, and therefore may not have the time to work on a new Article 4 direction.

Cllr Leng said: “It is not therefore envisaged that work could begin on progressing a new or amended Article 4 direction until late in 2024.

“However, at that stage the Council will investigate the case for extending the direction in this area in full.”