HMOs will now need planning permission in these areas of Wigan

An aerial shot of Wigan town centre
An aerial shot of Wigan town centre

In direct response to resident feedback, Wigan Council’s cabinet has agreed that all landlords and developers of properties in Swinley and central Leigh will need planning permission to convert buildings into small “houses in multiple occupation” (HMOs).

A HMO is a property rented out by at least three people who are not from the same household – such as a family – and share facilities including a bathroom and a kitchen.

Under existing planning regulations, a change of use from a house to a large HMO (of more than six people) requires planning permission, but a change of use to a small HMO (between three and six people) does not.

A new proposal presented to Wigan Council’s cabinet this afternoon (Thursday July 4), called an ‘Article 4 direction’, was agreed. This means that a HMO of any size in Swinley and central Leigh would need to be considered through the planning system.

Coun Carl Sweeney, cabinet member for environment, whose portfolio includes the planning department said: “We have listened to the feedback of our residents and their concern around the number of HMO’s building up in those areas.

“Historically, we have only been able to manage HMO’s of larger size, however, this new direction will give the council more opportunities to manage the development and quality of HMO’s in the two areas where they are most prevalent, which is why we have only introduced the article in Swinley and central Leigh at this stage.

“Although cabinet has agreed this move, we will be consulting with local people to give them the opportunity to respond to this new direction.”

There are currently 106 known HMO’s in the borough and the main concentrations are in Swinley and central Leigh with an estimated 31 and 20 respectively.

Overall, between 2012/13 and 2018/19, Wigan Council received 34 planning applications for HMO’s with 15 of these in Swinley and 8 in central Leigh.

Coun Sweeney continued: “We appreciate that HMO’s provide a form of low-cost, flexible housing, particularly for younger people and those on lower incomes, but there are concerns associated when the number of HMO’s increase in a concentrated area. Such concerns include parking provision, excess noise, impact on the physical environment and changes the character of a residential area.

“We are confident that this move will be welcomed by local people and we encourage them to submit their views on the plans to us during the consultation so we can ensure our policies are robust.”

To ensure that future planning applications for HMO’s provide quality accommodation whilst mitigating the impact on existing residents in an area, Wigan Council also proposes to prepare a supplementary planning document (SPD), which will be available to developers, landlords and residents and will provide a clear guidance on an appropriate standard of HMO accommodation.

The consultation will run for three weeks and will begin later this month. Site notices will be put up in due course and all information relating to the consultation will be available on the council’s website.

Following the consultation and consideration of comments, it is proposed that the Article 4 direction will come into force in January 2020.