Greenwich Council

Agenda item

Motion "Returning Building control powers to local authorities"

Motion proposed by Councillors Sarah Merrill and Danny Thorpe

Decision:

Resolved –

 

Council recognises the devastating impact the huge increase in the number of houses in the borough being converted to Homes of Multiple Occupation is having on local communities; further recognises that many developers do not comply with building control regulations or health and safety procedures during construction; states that this situation has come about as a direct consequence of the government allowing developers to select their own building control officers thereby taking away the power of the local authorities to routinely inspect the quality of building works and ensure the proper minimum standards are being met. 

 

Council further recognises that Government policies over the past 6 years have produced the conditions that have made this situation worse; changes in Housing Benefit Allowance raising the age at which people qualify for single room rate for Housing Benefit to 35 years of age therefore increasing the demand for rooms in HMOs; housing policy which led to house building falling to the lowest annual rate since the 1920s, which has led to rents in London rocketing, which in turn encourages developers to buy properties at higher rates than local people can afford to convert to HMOs; relaxing of planning legislation allowing HMOs to be created abusing permitted development rights. 

 

Council notes that Building Control Inspection paid for itself through the fees it charged developers, and the impact of this loss of income has meant that building control teams in local authorities such as Greenwich now lack the capacity to inspect the amount of properties under conversion.

 

The Royal Borough of Greenwich is doing its utmost to address as many of these issues as it can; maximising the provision of social housing; applying for an article 4 exemption from permitted development rights for HMO's; introducing borough wide mandatory licensing for HMO landlords.

 

The Council calls on the Government to end the right of developers to appoint their own building control officers and to restore the power to local authorities to enter HMOs under construction to inspect the quality of the building works; further calls on the Government to enable councils to introduce Article4 exemptions without fear of financial risk of legal challenges from developers who are prevented from carrying out already planned HMO conversions.

 

 

Minutes:

Councillor Sarah Merrill moved the motion. She emphasised this matter was making lives miserable in Greenwich and across London and other cities.  She commented on the housing market, and the creation of so-called HMO’s which were in effect squalid tiny bedsits, and which were breaking laws in construction and health and safety, and causing maximum nuisance to neighbours during construction. She commented on the relaxing of planning legislation and observed that private inspectors might do little just the minimum required by statute, and the risks this potentially caused. Councillor Merrill said they should ask the Government to reconsider basic safety on moral grounds, and give back to the Council building control.

 

The motion was seconded by Councillor Danny Thorpe

 

Councillor Mark Elliott proposed the amendment to the motion, as detailed in the published Tabled Items agenda. He said the motion identified there are problems arising from HMOs, but did not focus on what the Council could do and instead shifted responsibility to the Government. Councillor Elliott detailed the measures proposed in the amendment.

 

The amendment was seconded by Councillor Spencer Drury.

 

Councillor Sarah Merrill did not accept the amendment.

 

Councillors Danny Thorpe, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Sustainability, spoke against the amendment. He addressed each of the bulleted points in the proposed amendment. 

 

Councillors Jackie Smith, David Gardner, Sarah Merrill and Gary Parker spoke against the amendment. They commented on the changes made to the housing policy and benefits system and to the building control system, and the issue of objectivity of private inspectors.

 

Councillor Matt Hartley spoke in support of the amendment. He suggested that the motion sought to shift responsibility, while the proposed amendment looked at what the Council could actually do.

 

The amendment was put to the vote and with 8 votes in favour and 27 against it was not carried.

 

Councillor Sarah Merrill closed the debate.

 

The motion was put to the vote and with 27 votes for and 8 against it was

 

Resolved –

 

Council recognises the devastating impact the huge increase in the number of houses in the borough being converted to Homes of Multiple Occupation is having on local communities; further recognises that many developers do not comply with building control regulations or health and safety procedures during construction; states that this situation has come about as a direct consequence of the government allowing developers to select their own building control officers thereby taking away the power of the local authorities to routinely inspect the quality of building works and ensure the proper minimum standards are being met. 

 

Council further recognises that Government policies over the past 6 years have produced the conditions that have made this situation worse; changes in Housing Benefit Allowance raising the age at which people qualify for single room rate for Housing Benefit to 35 years of age therefore increasing the demand for rooms in HMOs; housing policy which led to house building falling to the lowest annual rate since the 1920s, which has led to rents in London rocketing, which in turn encourages developers to buy properties at higher rates than local people can afford to convert to HMOs; relaxing of planning legislation allowing HMOs to be created abusing permitted development rights. 

 

Council notes that Building Control Inspection paid for itself through the fees it charged developers, and the impact of this loss of income has meant that building control teams in local authorities such as Greenwich now lack the capacity to inspect the amount of properties under conversion.

 

The Royal Borough of Greenwich is doing its utmost to address as many of these issues as it can; maximising the provision of social housing; applying for an article 4 exemption from permitted development rights for HMO's; introducing borough wide mandatory licensing for HMO landlords.

 

The Council calls on the Government to end the right of developers to appoint their own building control officers and to restore the power to local authorities to enter HMOs under construction to inspect the quality of the building works; further calls on the Government to enable councils to introduce Article4 exemptions without fear of financial risk of legal challenges from developers who are prevented from carrying out already planned HMO conversions.

 

 

Supporting documents: