Despite Portsmouth City Council planning officers warning there were no reasons to refuse planning permission for the St Chad’s Avenue scheme, members of its planning committee said they were concerned about the capacity of the sewage system.
“We know that the sewer system in Portsmouth is at capacity so adding extra bathrooms – and there are a lot of them – into an area where there’s a documented problem with the flooding of the sewers is worrying,” councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson said.
The planning application was submitted by Applecore PDM and proposed the conversion of the three-bedroom home into an HMO with seven ensuite bedrooms.
Speaking at Wednesday’s (August 23) planning committee meeting, company director Carianne Wells said the proposal met all of the council’s policies.
But the application prompted 76 letters of objection, due to concerns it would increase pressure on services in the area and on the roads.
Among the objectors was Cliffdale Primary Academy principal Nicola Payne who said she was “very concerned” about exacerbating traffic issues in the area and risking the safety of its pupils.
Councillor Benedict Swann said objectors’ views needed to be taken into consideration.
But it was flooding data from councillor Daniel Wemyss that was used to refuse planning permission.
He said flood records in the area were “significant” and “concerning” with “numerous” incidents recorded in recent years.
“The data [Southern Water] have provided paints a worrisome picture of repeated flooding in the immediate area surrounding the proposal site,” he said. “This evidence reinforces the vulnerability of the sewer system to various factors that lead to blockages.
“They are just a glimpse into the challenges faced by the community.”
His information from Southern Water included several reports of flooding caused by blockages in the sewer system.
Planning officers told the committee that the use of the building as an HMO “wouldn’t necessarily” lead to more intensive use of water.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson, who proposed the move to reject the application, said Cllr Wemyss’ information justified the decision.
“Government rules give us very little power to say no to HMOs so I don’t want to just play to the gallery and please the public,” he said. “All the work can be done without asking for planning permission [under permitted development] and the government have taken that ability for us to say ‘no’ away.
“The thing I think is different here is the issue with the flooding. We have got material evidence that there is a real issue and that putting in seven bedrooms with all these bathrooms will add to the problem.
“We should not be adding to a problem and I think on that ground we have a reason to refuse where there is a hope of us winning at appeal.”