Residents unhappy over flats proposal

Local residents who are unhappy with the proposals
Local residents who are unhappy with the proposals

UNHAPPY residents have launched a complaint against St Helens Council over a planning application to convert a house into two flats.

Householders living on Holly Avenue, in Newton-le-Willows, complained to the town hall over the planning committee’s handling of the proposal for a property on the street submitted by Helena Housing.

The residents say councillors and officers failed to take their arguments into consideration and exaggerated the extent to which people in the area had been consulted.

They have now submitted their objections about the hearing to St Helens Council chief executive Michael Palin and say they are prepared to take their case to the ombudsman.

Ivor Goodban, one of the residents, said: “We feel the concerns of the tenants on Holly Avenue weren’t even taken into account.

“The law clearly wasn’t broken but I feel its spirit was manipulated to allow Helena Housing to achieve what they wanted.

“It was stated that Helena Housing had worked closely with tenants and residents, but we’ve never seen sight nor sound of any of them regarding this property.

“We just feel that the outcome was inevitable before the meeting had even taken place.”

The application was approved by six votes to five by the planning department. St Helens Council confirmed it has received the complaint and is looking into the matter.

The 13 unhappy households first submitted paperwork to head of regeneration Mark Dickens, and after receiving a reply via St Helens North MP Conor McGinn moved on to the next stage of the procedure and approached the chief executive.

Mr Goodban says he also queries some of the arguments used by Helena Housing for the conversion and whether the property is an appropriate location for two flats.

He said: “We just can’t understand why they are taking perfectly good family homes away. There’s lots of land available on the Wargrave estate where at least 15 flats could be built.

“The proposed flats are sandwiched between a row of private houses and it is adjoined to a privately-owned property.

“The upstairs lounge of one of the proposed flats is connected to the bedroom of a private tenant.”

A St Helens Council spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing the content of this complaint and will respond in due course.”

Helena Homes said it is its responsibility as a social landlord to ensure people have access to affordable homes and Government changes to the benefits system have hit people hard, making house conversions a useful way of maximising its stock.

A spokesman said: “Welfare reform and the bedroom tax, in particular, have left many of our customers struggling to afford their home.

“Single people in two and three bedroom properties have been especially hard hit and forced to either find the extra money to cover their unused rooms or move elsewhere.

“The conversions we have made are a cost-effective solution where there is a shortage of affordable rented homes for single people. Some of our customers have been living in these areas, in larger properties, for many years and, understandably, don’t want to move away from friends and family.”

Read about some of the tenants Helena Homes has helped here