Sefton Council: Birkdale bedsit plans approved despite ‘friends with benefits’ fears

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Plans for bedsits in Birkdale have been approved despite fears over “friends with benefits” increasing the amount of comings and goings at the property.

The question arose at a meeting of Sefton Council’s planning committee where proposals for a seven bedroom house of multiple occupation (HMO) at Bury Road were up for discussion. The application by St David Birkdale Ltd would involve the partial change of use of a former shop to create the bedsits – although space for a smaller shop would be retained.

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With a lack of other HMOs in the area and rooms of acceptable sizes, planning officers said that whilst there was insufficient amenity space, on balance the application was acceptable.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Ms Abdul said the company had experience of running “high quality co-living spaces” and vetted tenants carefully.

She added the plans involved a significant investment in otherwise vacant units and would bring “wider community benefit” with the opening of a shop on the site.

However, several issues were raised during the planning meeting, after a petition was signed by over 30 residents concerned at the prospect of bedsits along the street.

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Objections and solutions

One issue raised was around the closeness of Birkdale Primary school and the additional traffic that could be created by the residential and commercial units.

Birkdale Cllr Simon Shaw, speaking in objection to the plans, said he was concerned around residents reversing as “little people are coming in and out of school.”

Cllr Shaw also said he was concerned at the prospect residents of the properties might find partners – which could increase the number of people coming and going.

Cllr Shaw said: “You have seven people there and if four months down the line one of them develops a relationship with somebody and they move in. If they move in that would be an issue [for how many people are living there] but it is much more likely they would be there for just two or three nights a week, whatever it might be.”

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Cllr Shaw referred to an alternative application put forward for the same site for a smaller HMO under permitted development rights, noting there were different numbers of single and double bedrooms for the two proposals, which could have further implications around potential partners.

Cllr Shaw’s comments prompted Cllr Paula Spencer to ask: “Can you not get your leg over in a single bedroom? Is this only in double bedrooms? And is there a clause for friends with benefits?”

Chair of the committee, Cllr Daren Veidman said this issue was already covered by a recommended condition limiting occupation to seven people. In addition the property would need a HMO licence which could also grant restrictions. Cllr O’Brien said a management plan could help assuage some of the concerns around occupancy.

Another issue raised was put forward by a member of the public, who spoke on behalf of residents living close to the proposed bedsits who signed a petition opposing the plans.

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Local resident Sheila Boardman spoke of the many vulnerable people living in the area and expressed concern that pressures in the kitchen could ultimately “spill out into the street.”

Mrs Boardman said: “You’ve got a group of disparate people, personality conflicts could arise and with them being forced to share facilities such problems could be exacerbated and any acceleration could spill out into the street.

“Just something like going into the kitchen to heat a bowl of soup, if there’s no cooker or microwave space, if there’s no crockery and cutlery is dirty in the sink it could cause many problems.”

Ultimately however, the plans were approved with the majority of the planning committee voting for the proposals with two councillors against meaning Birkdale may soon be getting a new house of multiple occupation.

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