The Chronicle has campaigned for over two years for the introduction of Article 4 to protect family homes in Thornton Heath being converted in to houses of multiple occupancy.

In 2017 Thornton Heath residents were assured that Article 4 would be introduced to make it more difficult for large Victorian houses to be carved up in to bedsits.

Residents were angry that HMOs were benefitting developers but detrimental to the area and pushed the council to pilot the scheme in Thornton Heath.

Cabinet lead for housing Cllr Alison Butler told THCAT that if it was  immediate, the Council would be liable to pay compensation for the following 12 months.  The council was advised by lawyers that it would need to put aside a large budget to cover this risk. 

So instead in January 2019 the council announced it planned a short consultation and would be introducing the scheme on January 28, 2020. 

Previously multi-bedroom properties could be converted to small HMOs (houses occupied by between three and six unrelated individuals) under permitted development – which meant planning consent is not required for the change.The planning restriction removes this ability, requiring owners to seek planning permission for the change use.

The council’s own research identified a shortage of family homes in the borough over the past 10 years, with  hundreds of family homes lost to conversion into HMOs.

Last February, council documents revealed that in addition  to the risk of overcrowding, HMOs affect the local environment and neighbours through increased anti-social behaviour, excessive litter, fly tipping and parking. 

The fire safety team, who work on behalf of the London Fire Brigade, provided the council with data that showed 21 counts of HMO specific related fires since January 2015 with the council’s HMO team issuing over 600 improvement notices in the last three years.