By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
OLDHAM Council Planning bosses have voted to refuse plans for a shared house in Royton despite having been stripped of their decision making powers.
The authority’s planning committee had been deemed by the planning inspectorate to have taken too long to make a ruling on the controversial bid.
Instead, members were asked to indicate what their vote would have been and are investigating why the town hall ‘ran out of time’.
Since March, the committee had twice deferred the application to turn an office building in Royton into a nine-bed house of multiple occupation.
Applicant Ashik Hussain has stated he was aiming to let the property to junior doctors and nurses working at the nearby Royal Oldham Hospital.
At the first hearing, councillors suggested tenants should be barred from having boyfriends and girlfriends to stay overnight to keep the number of residents down to nine.
But officers said it was ‘not appropriate’ to propose a restriction through planning law, and licensing conditions could control the number of occupants.
Ten objections and a petition signed by 11 residents had been lodged against the plans.
However, in the months since, the applicant had submitted an appeal against ‘non-determination of the application within a statutory period’.
Planning officer Graham Dickman explained: “What this means now is that committee does not have the authority to make a decision on this application.
“But the planning inspectorate will wish to know what decision the council would have made on the application, had it been able to do so. The inspectorate will be making that decision.”
The building is located off Oldham Road, surrounded by residential properties.
Conservative Councillor John Hudson queried why they were in the situation at all given they had more than six months to make a judgement on the plan.
“I’m stating the obvious here but the average person will want to know why we haven’t been able to make a decision from March to October and somebody hasn’t watched that it’s run out of time,” he said.
“It does seem a bit sad, I know we’ve got to treat this like any other application and make a decision, but at the end of the day we will not be making the decision.
“Surely it’s somebody’s job to make sure that the committee acts within the framework so that somebody doesn’t have to apply to say it’s out of time.
“I find it strange and I can’t remember it happening for a long time.”
Committee chair and Royton South councillor, Steve Bashforth added: “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it happen in all my years I’ve been on planning,” he said.
“This building has a commercial use for many years, going back into the 80s and I think it’s continued use as a commercial enterprise proves that it is in a viable place for commercial use.
“With that in mind I feel we ought to keep it as an office.”
He added: “It’s important that the inspector understands how we feel about it and what decision we came to.”
Objector Stephen Edwards, who lives on Arlington Close, complained about the potential of overlooking issues from the windows of the building.
“Tenants from the proposed HMO can look directly into our bedroom and living room windows,” he said.
“We believe the proposed development does not respect local context. It will have a detrimental impact in terms of the living conditions of the neighbours.”
Agent for the applicant, Grant Erskine, said: “I would like to highlight that we work very closely with Oldham planning to revise and adapt the scheme.
“The licence, separate to planning, will be for nine applicants.”