HMO plans for fire damaged Worthing home are refused

The fire in Rowlands Road back in 2017
The fire in Rowlands Road back in 2017

Plans to convert a fire-damaged two-storey maisonette in Worthing into a seven-bedroom shared house have been refused.

The maisonette, above a shop in Rowlands Road, was seriously damaged in a fire in May 2017 and has been empty and without a roof since then.

The Rowlands Road fire in 2017

The Rowlands Road fire in 2017

Members of the borough council’s planning committee were asked to approve plans to replace the roof and convert the building into what is known as a house in multiple occupation (HMO) – but they were not impressed with the standard of the accommodation being planned.

Chairman Paul High (Con, Heene) said he didn’t think seven rooms sharing three showers and three toilets could be seen to be ‘a quality home’.

He added: “To cram seven – potentially up to 13 – people in this building, I’d go so far as to say I think it’s shameful.

“To share those facilities with that amount of people, I think this is a backwards step. We shouldn’t be doing things like that.”

Jim Deen (Lab, Central) raised concerns about the lack of toilet or shower facilities for people living on the top floor, while Paul Baker (Con, Broadwater) said the application was ‘overdevelopment of the building’.

More than 120 people signed a petition imploring the council to refuse the application.

The petition raised concerns about drug usage in the area and the fact the building was next to a bar and an alleyway ‘where the police cannot easily patrol’.

It added: “This is a totally wrong location for this planning application.”

Applicant Lawrence Wright said the building was an ‘eyesore’ which, as the new owner, he hoped to remedy.

Mr Wright told the committee the building ‘would provide a pension’ for him, and said the conversion would be ideal for shift workers and young people and would be managed by a letting agency and regularly inspected.

Regarding the petition, he said the problems raised were a police issue, not a planning concern.

He added: “You can’t blame society’s problems on buildings. There will be zero tolerance of drugs. There will be no drug users in my property. I wouldn’t spend £400,000 on a building and then allow drug users to reside in my property.”

During the discussion, Helen Silman (Lab, Heene) objected to the assumption that people living in such shared homes would be associated with anti-social behaviour, alcohol or drugs.

She said: “People have to have places to live when they are just starting out on their professional lives and I don’t understand this direct correlation that any HMO will inevitably be filled with people who conduct themselves in an anti-social way.”

The application was rejected on the grounds of overdevelopment.