PLANS to turn a former doctor’s surgery into a house in multiple occupation (HMO) have been met with strong opposition from neighbours concerned about the spread of such properties throughout the town.

The Victorian-era house on Park Grove, which has been vacant since last year when the practice moved to Burleigh Medical Centre, is proposed to house ten people across its three floors.

A statement submitted with the planning application by Sheffield-based JR Planning Consultants says the site is now ‘surplus to requirements’ and the development would be ‘an entirely appropriate alternative use for the vacant building’.

“There is no detriment to the community through the loss of the former doctor’s surgery as that facility is now provided elsewhere in the locality,” reads the statement.

“HMOs are often a maligned form of housing due to concerns about anti-social behaviour.

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“However, there is often much unjustified criticism and problems are inevitably due to poor management rather than being endemic of the type of housing or the people who live in them.

“Despite persisting prejudice, HMOs are actually an essential form of housing for a wide range of members of society from differing backgrounds.

“This includes students and young professionals who do not wish to commit to purchasing or long-term renting, as well as those members of society for who buying or renting an entire house would be out of reach financially.”

This is disputed by local residents, some of whom are members of the Save S70 group - residents of the areas most affected by what they say is a ‘dangerous trend’ -who are calling on the council to consider a legal direction to curb the spread of HMOs.

“You don’t know what kind of people are going into that property, and ten extra cars on the street is something that will cause problems,” said Fiona Stephenson, a member of the group who has lived on Park Grove for 25 years.

“The neighbours will take the brunt of it. That was my GP as well and quite a few other people’s, so we’ll have to go further afield when there’s already a shortage of GPs.

“Estate agents have been saying that Park Grove is a desirable area for HMOs and they have been pushing that agenda. It’s only a matter of time before there is a significant amount on our street.

“It used to be a really nice area but now there are problems with people taking drugs, rubbish, parking - it’s appalling.

“There’s a children’s park up the road where people literally queue for drugs.

“It’s all adding to a general decline of the area, and we can’t let that happen.”

‘People deserve decent housing’

THE SAVE S70 group’s ‘Say No to HMO’ campaign centres on a legal route councils have to control the rise of HMOs - bedsit-style properties with more than one occupant.

It argues that areas in which HMOs thrive become prone to reports of anti-social behaviour, noise and increased rubbish, and is calling for the council to consider an ‘Article Four’ direction which would necessitate planning permission for new HMOs.

There are currently 131 registered HMOs in Barnsley, according to council figures, and last month plans to turn an old insurance broker’s office on Eldon Street North into a HMO were rejected by planning officials because of the quality of living conditions it would provide tenants.

Barnsley Council told the Chronicle it had updated its planning process following concerns about HMOs, but previously said the number in the borough was too low to put an Article Four direction in place.

“Everyone here is in agreement that there are too many already,” said group member Fiona Stephenson. “We’re in the process of letting the council know where they are, and they’ve said that if the amount of HMOs in the area goes above five per cent, they will look into the Article Four.

“The thing is there will be some that are unregistered, so no one knows how many there are for sure.

“There are nine we have confirmed on Park Grove, and others we suspect but we’re not sure.

“We think by the end of the year at the current trajectory we’ll have 12 or 13 just on our street.

“Every time there’s a house up for sale a landlord will jump on it and try to make money out of it.

“People deserve decent housing, but HMOs aren’t decent.”

The campaign group will hold a meeting next week to discuss the plans.

To view the application, click here.