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National HMO Lobby


Witness Statement
of Richard Tyler on behalf of the Claimant
Dated 3 March 2011




01 My name is Richard Tyler. I have a first degree and a doctorate from the University of Leeds. I have taught all my career in Higher Education in Leeds, first at Leeds College of Art, which formed part of Leeds Polytechnic, which in turn became Leeds Metropolitan University, where I became a Principal Lecturer. I am now retired, and for many years, have been involved in voluntary community work in Leeds.

02 I write here in my capacity as Co-ordinator of the National HMO Lobby, which is a voluntary association of local community associations in all parts of the United Kingdom who are concerned about the impacts of concentrations of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) on the cohesion and sustainability of their communities. The Lobby began in 2000, and now comprises some fifty associations in thirty towns in England, as well as others in the other countries of the UK. One of the main aims of the Lobby is the amendment of planning legislation to enable local planning authorities to assert development control over HMOs. Further information is available on the Lobby's website.

03 This Witness Statement is made by the National HMO Lobby, in support of the claim by Milton Keynes Council for Judicial Review of the introduction by the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government of Statutory Instrument 2010 No. 2134 The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (no 2) (England) Order 2010, on 1 October 2010.

04 The matters set out in this statement are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

05 The Lobby welcomed the introduction of Statutory Instrument 2010 No. 653 The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Order 2010, on 6 April 2010, which subjected HMOs to development control.

06 The Lobby considers the subsequent SI 2010 No 2134, which reversed the effect of SI 2010 No 653, as unjustified, for a number of reasons. SI 2010 No 653 was well grounded, while the consultation on SI 2010 No 2134 was inadequate and the outcome of that consultation did not support adoption of SI 2010 No 2134.

07 First of all, SI 2010 No 653 was well grounded: it was well-researched, widely-consulted, well-founded and endorsed by the government which subsequently reversed it. The research was initiated by the previous government, after extensive campaigning by the National HMO Lobby and other organisations, such as the All-Party Parliamentary Balanced & Sustainable Communities Group (registered 28 March 2007) and the Councillors Campaign for Balanced Communities (inaugurated 1 February 2007). In March 2007, the House of Commons Committee for Communities & Local Government stated: "We recommend that the Government examines whether local authorities need additional powers to address the problems arising in areas with especially large numbers of HMOs", clearly referring to the Use Classes Order as one option (House of Commons, Communities & Local Government Committee Coastal Towns (HC 351) 2007, paragraph 46). In the autumn of 2007, Simon Llewellyn, Head of Private Renting and Leasehold at Communities and Local Government, wrote "we fully recognise the difficulties that can arise with large concentrations of dwellings with group occupation and recognise that there may be a case for amending the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended). We therefore propose to consult next year on proposals to amend the Use Classes Order in relation to HMOs." In a written answer in the Commons on 15 January 2008, Planning Minister Iain Wright reiterated this commitment: "We propose to consult on possible amendments to the Use Classes Order in relation to HMOs later in the year." On 9 April 2008, "a new review aimed at improving the management and conditions of people living in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) was launched by Housing and Planning Minister Caroline Flint." The Review was the subject of the HMOs Seminar attended by the National HMO Lobby at CLG on the same day, 9 April. This Seminar was the final phase of the preliminaries to the HMO Review and to the consultation on the Use Classes Order. A Report by the consultancy ECOTEC was published by CLG on 26 September, titled Evidence Gathering - Housing in Multiple Occupation and possible planning responses.

08 SI 2010 No 653 was based on wide consultation. On 13 May 2009, CLG published its consultation paper Houses in multiple occupation and possible planning responses: Consultation, which proposed three possible courses of action (no change, amendment of the Use Classes Order, or use of Article 4 Directions). A delegation to CLG presented the Lobby's Response to the CLG Consultation on Houses in Multiple Occupation and possible planning responses on 30 July. The consultation ended on 7 August. On 27 January 2010, a Summary of Responses to the consultation was published: CLG received 948 replies, especially from individual residents, residents' associations and local authorities, as well as from environmental & community groups, professionals & academics, students including unions, universities, and others.

09 The outcome of the consultation was convincing. Of those that expressed a preference, a combined total of 92% expressed a preference for some form of Option 2 of the consultation, that is, the changes to the Use Classes Order embodied in SI 2010 No 653. Change to the Use Classes Order was supported, not only by the National HMO Lobby, but also by most of the Core Cities and by the Planning Officers Society, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the British Resorts And Destinations Association, the Coastal Communities Alliance and the National HMO Network, among others. (Only 1% preferred Option 3, the use of Article 4 Directions, which was the course of action adopted by the new government in SI 2010 No 2134; it was very clear that it was unpopular.)

10 SI 2010 No 653 came into force on 6 April, and it was endorsed by the new government, formed after the election of May 2010. On 21 April, during the election campaign, I met Grant Shapps, then Shadow Housing Minister, who agreed to revise the Conservative Party position on the Instrument, and this revision was published on 26 April, stating, "We will ensure that there is no gap between Labour's new legislation (active from April 2010) and any equivalent legislation introduced by a Conservative government. We will consult again on any changes proposed by a Conservative government." Following the General Election of 6 May, Grant Shapps MP became Minister for Housing, and on 10 June in the House of Commons, he said, "we do not plan to overturn the rules [on HMOs] that the previous Government introduced" (see Hansard). Initially at least, the new government appeared content with the existing legislation. Overall therefore SI 2010 No 653 was well grounded.

11 Regrettably, SI 2010 No 2134 was ill-founded. On 17 June 2010, I was invited by CLG to contribute on behalf of the National HMO Lobby to the consultation on the government's new proposals for HMO legislation. The following day, 18 June, I replied, agreeing to respond, and asking two questions: (1) who else was being consulted? and (2) would CLG include other interested parties (if they were not already included in the consultation)? On 21 June, CLG replied to me, with a list of the eight original consultees (including the Lobby), and also agreeing to add the five organisations I had recommended (see Appendix to this Statement [omitted]).

12 It is clear, first of all, that the original scope of the consultation intended by CLG was narrow in the extreme, a mere eight organisations. In addition to the National HMO Lobby, these comprised the Local Government Association, the Planning Officers Society, the British Property Federation, the Residential Landlords Association, the National Landlords Association, the National Union of Students and Universities UK. This number is particularly extraordinary, given the number of respondents to the original consultation in 2009 (08 above). Certainly, the majority of responses were from individuals. But respondents also included 186 organisations, including 73 local authorities, 66 residents' associations, 11 universities, 10 students unions, 10 from the property industry, 5 professional organisations (and 11 others).

13 Furthermore, the balance of the invitees was heavily distorted. It has been widely recognised that there are five principal sets of interests in development control of HMOs, councils, communities, students, universities and landlords, as reflected in the respondents noted above. Yet a third of the original narrow range of consultees was drawn from the property industry. This hardly represented the full range of interests if this policy area. It was only upon the intervention of the National HMO Lobby that some balance was restored with the addition of the National Organisation of Residents Associations (NORA), the Councillors Campaign for Balanced Communities, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Sustainable Communities, the Core Cities and the Coastal Communities Alliance. Subsequently, CLG also added the Royal Town Planning Institute. This process evidently explains the series of emails issued by CLG on 17, 21, 22 and 23 June 2010.

14 Again, the scope of the consultation remains ambiguous. In addition to the 14 invited consultees, CLG also received responses from over thirty other organisations (as well as a few individuals) (see Exhibit SGT2).

15 Finally, the second consultation in 2010 in fact endorsed the first consultation in 2009. Of the fourteen key partners invited to comment, in fact eight opposed the new proposals. Five supported them, and one returned an ambiguous response (the Local Government Group, though CLG counted this as supportive). Of the others who chose to submit comments, 23 opposed the new proposals, including fourteen local authorities and five members of Parliament (again, see Exhibit SGT2). Exhibit SGT3 makes clear that there was no unqualified support for the government's proposals.

16 Therefore, in the light of the grounds for SI 2010 No 653, of the inadequacy of the consultation on SI 2010 No 2134 and of the outcome of that consultation, the adoption of SI 2010 No 2134 was unsound.

Signed Dr Richard Tyler, Co-ordinator, National HMO Lobby

Dated 3 March 2011


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