A PLAN that could have led to an old insurance broker’s office on the edge of Barnsley town centre being turned into a home for eight people has been rejected by a planning inspector.

The application to convert the building on Eldon Street North into a house of multiple occupation was rejected because of concerns for the quality of the living conditions the property would have provided.

In her findings, planning inspector Kate Mansell said: “I recognise the appeal site lies within an accessible location where residential development is acceptable in principle.

“It would also make better use of a building that has been vacant for approximately two years.

“Furthermore, I acknowledge that the government seeks to boost significantly the supply of housing to which the accommodation would contribute to a degree.

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“These factors weigh in its favour. However, while I find that the scheme would provide a sufficient housing mix, the benefits of the proposal are outweighed in this instance by the failure to provide satisfactory living conditions for future occupiers.”

There is increasing concern among some residents about the impact of increased numbers of houses of multiple occupation, where residents have their own room but share facilities like the kitchen and bathroom, on some residential areas.

Barnsley Council has commissioned its own work on the arrangements, which are increasingly common in some areas close to the town centre.

There are currently 131 registered HMOs - bedsit-style properties with more than one occupant - in Barnsley, according to council figures.

But this is a number that will continue to rise if the council does not take action, according to the Save S70 group - a band of residents of the most affected parts of town who have come together to ask the council for a decision on what it calls a ‘dangerous trend’

The campaign group’s members argue that areas in which HMOs thrive become prone to reports of antisocial behaviour, noise and increased rubbish, and are calling for the council to consider what is known as an ‘Article Four’ direction - a move which would require planning permission for new HMOs.

Save S70 member Alan McCormick said the group had been contacted by residents of the most affected areas of town - mainly Kingstone and Gawber - which confirmed HMOs are becoming a concern for people across the borough.

According to Alan, of Park Grove, Kingstone - currently the site of three large HMOs - this is because ‘there’s nothing to dissuade it from happening’.

“It could happen in any property, but the likelihood is increased when somewhere is split into an HMO,” Alan told the Chronicle.