Anger over large HMOs owned by Northampton MP's family
Michael Ellis has a share in one of the family businesses which owns HMOs in the town
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By Natalie Bloomer
Anger is brewing over a 12 person HMO (House in Multiple Occupation), which has been given the go ahead by West Northamptonshire Council despite being in a conservation area.
Northampton has around 1,000 licensed HMOs - the largest number in the county.
The property at Langham Place in Northampton is owned by LME Properties whose director is Antony Ellis - brother of Michael Ellis. The MP for Northampton North has a share in another of his brother’s property companies, which also owns HMOs in the town.
An application was initially put in for the property to be used as a HMO for 13 people but objections were made by the town council, local councillors, West Northamptonshire’s conservation officer and neighbouring properties. The application was then refused in September because of the detrimental impact it would have on the "character and appearance of the conservation area" as well as concerns over parking.
LME Properties appealed the decision but also put forward a new application making some changes to the earlier plans and reducing the proposed occupation to 12. Again a series of objections were made including from ward councillor Winston Strachan who wrote:
"This application is simply a rehash of the previous application which was refused by this planning committee. The applicants are simply not listening to the community in the location of this property. They are not prepared to listen to the concerns raised by residents in the neighbourhood in terms of the blight HMOs that already exist have brought to their streets, their homes and the environment in general."
The application was listed on the agenda for a meeting of the Northampton Area Planning Committee on December 6, however the minutes say:
"The Chair announced that following updates to the Constitution at the meeting of Council on 2nd December 2021, members who called in an application for consideration by Planning Committees were now required to register to speak on the application, otherwise it would be automatically referred back to officers for determination.
"Item 7f [3 Langham Place] was called in by a councillor who had not registered to speak on the item, so the application was withdrawn from the agenda and would be determined by officers in accordance with the Council’s scheme of delegations."
This meant that instead of a decision being made by councillors (as is often the case when there are significant concerns over a planning application) it was made behind closed doors by council officers. The application was approved the same month.
Another Ellis family business MSA Properties, which Michael Ellis has declared he has more than 15% shareholdings in, owns two other large HMOs at St Matthews Parade in the town.
When the planning application for a change of use to HMOs was made for the two properties in 2020 a number of objections were made to the local authority from neighbours including some which had been passed on to the council by Michael Ellis' office. Among a series of concerns raised were some about rubbish. In response council planning officers said:
"There is sufficient space to the rear and front of the property for the outdoor storage of waste prior to refuse collection days. A condition can be attached to secure details of the type of structure for bin storage prior to occupation of the HIMO and ensure that it is retained thereafter."
However when NN Journal visited the property yesterday there were a stack of black bin bags piled up in the front garden.
The property at Langham Place which is currently vacant was so overgrown it could hardly be seen from the road and there were sleeping bags in the doorway.
One local resident we spoke to said they were aware of lots of local concern about the newly agreed HMO.
"It may be a big house that can fit 12 people or more but it is not designed for 12 different households. That's 12 lots of rubbish, 12 lots of parking, friends and visitors of 12 people coming and going. It's not the same as a single large family house. People are angry about it because we don't want our area to become run down, these are lovely old houses, they should be appreciated."
Labour town councillor Jane Birch who used to live close to Langham Place also objected to the plans.
"It is totally wrong for that area. Why is this a conservation area if we are not going to conserve it? I don't believe the planning committee has acted in the best interest of local people, something has to be done to protect communities,” she said.
Deputy leader of the West Northamptonshire Labour Group Emma Roberts said:
“There appears to be no joined-up thinking if decisions like this are just being waved through. This is why the council needs to deliver a proper housing strategy. We’re also still waiting for the promised HMO review.”
Both Michael Ellis and West Northamptonshire Council have been contacted for a comment.