CONTROVERSIAL plans to change an office block in Barnsley into a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) have been met with disdain from local residents - though one of the applicants has reassured people that the correct measures are in place.

There are 135 HMO licences in force across the borough and last month there were two planning applications submitted for HMOs on Sheffield Road - with one being an 11-bedroom property.

Since November last year there’s been four applications submitted on the street - which is a main route into the town centre - and many locals are worried about the safety of the area.

Louise Bilton, 45, who lives in the area, believes it has started to become more dangerous over time.

She told the Chronicle: “If you’re coming from Birdwell you look at the area and it’s not bad at all, but as soon as you go past the petrol station it’s disgusting - what must people think of that when they’re coming through?

“When I’m walking my dog I try and avoid walking past that area especially when it’s dark - it just makes you feel unsafe.

“Even back when I first came here people told me of the reputation.

“The more you introduce HMOs into the area the worse it’s going to get - it’s dragging it down.

“I’m not saying that all HMOs are bad but the majority aren’t looked after - the rubbish bins aren’t taken care of and people don’t recycle properly so obviously the council don’t take them.

“It isn’t all landlords, I know that, but there needs to be some rules in place to make sure that the right measures are being followed.”

Council bosses say that they ‘proactively and reactively’ inspect properties to insure that all legislation is being followed, and that all HMOs have conditions which include the control of antisocial behaviour.

Wendy Lowder, executive director of adults and communities, added: “There are currently 135 HMO licences in force within the district and these can be viewed on the housing section of the council’s website.

“There are a number of different pieces of legislation that cover privately rented properties, including HMOs, and specific regulations regarding the management of HMOs.

“We proactively and reactively inspect HMOs to ensure compliance and would take action as necessary to address any issues where this legislation is not being followed.

“The licenced HMOs also have conditions attached to the licence which include management of antisocial behaviour.

“In respect of any new planning applications, we will consider all concerns raised in response to our consultation as part of the planning process before making any decision.”

One of the planning applicants for the properties on Sheffield Road, James Ross of JRO Properties Limited, says he understands why some residents would be concerned at the potential of a new HMO in the area - but wants to reassure that the measures he has in place will keep the area safe.

“In Barnsley there are a lot of HMOs but some of them are quite poor quality,” he said.

“If we do get planning permission, and at the minute there are quite a few obstacles in the way, we would be creating higher quality HMO rooms that are very different to the ones that are there already.

“We have a rigourous process for people who are wanting to move into the rooms and I understand that HMOs do have a bad reputation - but that’s not what we’re like.”