A CAMPAIGN group set up to lobby Barnsley Council to take action on houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) has reacted positively after the local authority announced plans to combat the rise of the controversial properties.

Senior councillors approved the decision to implement an Article Four direction - a measure to give the council more control over the conversion of a residential property into a HMO - at Wednesday’s meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet.

The move is aimed at giving the council more control over sustaining a housing mix - removing permitted development rights for the conversion of residential properties into HMOs.

Currently, changing a house into a small HMO - of six persons or less - does not require planning permission.

Larger HMOs have to go through the council’s planning department.

Given planning permission is already required for conversion of properties to larger HMOs, the proposed borough-wide direction will apply to the creation of smaller HMOs to ensure the council can retain control over numbers and concentrations so ensuring a sustainable housing mix can be provided.

The Save S70 campaign group, formed of residents of the most-affected parts of town to lobby the council on the issue, said the system allows landlords to buy up properties and convert them into HMOs.

The share of Barnsley’s housing mix taken up by ‘high-density’ private rented accommodation, according to a report issued to cabinet members, has almost tripled in size in the last ten years - which the campaign group said has led to increases in anti-social behaviour, noise and litter in the central wards of Dodworth, Old Town and Kingstone.

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There are estimated to be around 140 HMOs in the borough.

The report states: “The Article Four direction is intended to benefit local people by helping to provide an adequate supply of larger family dwellings to satisfy identified demand.

“At the same time, it will allow clustering of HMOs to be controlled so as to ensure mixed and balanced communities.

“The benefits of this are deemed to outweigh the increased burden that the requirement to seek planning permission would introduce for applicants.”

Fiona Stephenson, of Save S70, said the Article Four direction was the ‘only way’ to stop the unfettered spread of HMOs.

“We have spent more than three years campaigning for this decision to be made,” said Fiona, who added despite the group’s main aim now close to completion, it would continue to campaign for the S70 area.

“It gives the council another tool to deal with the issue. It’s costing it a lot of money.

“It’s really the only way to control landlords who want to destroy family homes in favour of HMOs, purely because they make money from it. Even if a property is half-empty, the landlord is still making money.

“They’re destroying communities. We want Barnsley town centre to be friendly to families.

“We’re really pleased to get this far, but we’re not exactly celebrating just yet.”

The council will allow 12 months before it confirms the order, as otherwise it could be liable to pay compensation to developers who have already acquired properties intending to convert them to HMOs due to current permitted development rules.