The Principal Planning officer outlined that the application had previously been presented to the Committee at its meeting on 15thMarch, 2022. At that meeting, Members had raised the issue of potential prematurity in relation to the draft LDP Strategy and had deferred the application in order to get further information regarding the figures of existing HMOs and flats within the surrounding area.
The Committee was advised that the Local Development Plan Team had been consulted and had advised that, within the draft Plan Strategy, Policy HOU10 stated that planning permission should only be granted for HMOs and/or flats/apartments where the total number of HMOs and flats/apartments combined would not as a result exceed 20% of all dwelling units within a Housing Management Area (HMA). The Members were advised that the data illustrated that there were 708 HMOs/flats/apartments and 1,171 domestic properties, so the percentage of HMOs and flats/apartments combined within the area was 60%.
The Principal Planning officer outlined the justification and amplification text for Policy HOU10 in the draft Plan Strategy, which stated that, in advance of the Local Policies Plan, those policies would be applied to the HMO policy areas outlined within designation HMO2 of the HMOs subject plan for Belfast City Council area 2015. Therefore, in advance of the Local Policies Plan being drafted, the Plan Strategy at the point of adoption would require that the provision of Policy HOU10 be applied to the existing Policy Areas as designated in the HMOs Subject Plan – that is, the Ulsterville HMO Policy Area (HMO 2/21). The latest available data showed that there were 529 HMO Units in the Policy Area and 1,171 domestic properties, so the percentage of HMOs in the Policy Area was 45%. As the application was not for HMO units, the policies contained within the Belfast HMO Subject Plan 2015 did not apply.
The Committee was advised that the Local Development Plan Draft Plan Strategy 2035 would guide future planning application decision making to support the sustainable spatial growth of the city up to 2035. The draft Plan Strategy had been subject to examination by the Planning Appeals Commission and the Council had been provided with a copy of its report, together with a Direction from DfI in relation to additional required steps before it could be considered adopted. Paragraph 1.10 of the SPPS stated that a transitional period would operate until such times as a Council’s Plan Strategy was adopted. Accordingly, whilst the Draft Plan Strategy was now a material consideration, it had limited weight until it was adopted and, during the transitional period, planning authorities would apply existing policy together with the SPPS.
The Principal Planning officer explained that the application was compliant with current policies set out in the SPPS and PPS7 Quality Residential Environments and the Addendum to PPS7 PPS 7 (Addendum): Safeguarding the Character of Established Residential Areas. Therefore, significant weight remained with the existing polices considered within the report and with which the application complied.
A Member stated that she still had concerns regarding prematurity and queried the policy test for PPS7.
After further clarification was given by from the Principal Planning officer, the Chairperson put the officers’ recommendation to the Committee, namely, to grant approval to the application, with delegated authority given to the Director of Planning and Building Control to finalise the wording of the conditions.
On a vote, eight Members voted for the proposal and two against and it was accordingly declared carried.