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Soaring number of bedsits changing character of Ipswich roads

PUBLISHED: 07:30 07 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:38 07 July 2019

Extensions to create Homes of Multiple Occupancy have been going up on houses in Grove Lane near Ipswich town centre. Picture: THE IPSWICH SOCIETY

Extensions to create Homes of Multiple Occupancy have been going up on houses in Grove Lane near Ipswich town centre. Picture: THE IPSWICH SOCIETY

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Parts of Ipswich are having their character changed forever as "starter" homes are being converted into bedsits for an increasing mobile population.

John Norman, Chairman of The Ipswich Society. Picture: SU ANDERSONJohn Norman, Chairman of The Ipswich Society. Picture: SU ANDERSON

Property owners do not need planning permission to convert traditional homes into "houses of multiple occupation" - neither do they need permission to carry out many extensions, so long as they are at the back of the building.

Owners of HMOs do need to get a licence from the local authority - but as long as they fulfil safety criteria, there is nothing to stop the work being carried out.

The concerns come just weeks after a Freedom of Information request revealed that the number of HMOs in the town had soared.

Ipswich Society chairman John Norman highlighted the problem in the group's latest newsletter, and said landlords were changing the character of several roads in the town.

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He said: "If you take an ordinary two up, three down house - the sort that many people have had as a starter home - and then build extensions in the back of the roof you can get up to nine rooms as an HMO.

"Residents often work all hours, they all have their own cars, there's a lot of disturbance so long-standing residents move out...and then the same thing happens to their homes. It is changing the character of some parts of Ipswich."

Borough portfolio holder Carole Jones said she was very frustrated by the inability of the council to prevent homes being converted into HMOs through the planning process.

She said: "The last Labour government did bring in legislation to make it necessary to apply for planning permission before converting houses like this in April 2010, but it was one of the first things repealed by the coalition government a few months later."

There had been problems with some conversions that had damaged neighbouring houses and it was difficult to inspect the work in some cases. However the council was looking at applying for special status which would require it to give planning permission before further HMOs were created.

Conservative candidate in the next general election, Tom Hunt, said he backed the Labour council's bid to change the law. "I think there should be a need to get permission to change a house to an HMO," he said. "I've seen how this is changing some roads in the town."

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