Words & pics by Ed King
An application to convert the old Royal Oak pub on Marsh Lane has been refused by Birmingham City Council (BCC) citing the potential ‘erosion’ of the local area in its final decision.
The application was made by Keey Homes Ltd, a property management company with a registered address in Exeter – that was only incorporated in December 2022.
In further response to the planning application, which sought to covert the once popular pub into a 10 bedroom HMO (house of multiple occupancy), BCC stated that ‘future occupiers of the proposed HMO would not be afforded a suitable and satisfactory standard of living’.
In the current proposal, registered with BCC on 12 July 2023, more than one of the 10 bedrooms would only have windows facing a neighbouring wall – at less than 12 times the distance required in Birmingham – leaving an ‘unsatisfactory standard of outlook and poor access to natural light’.
Further concerns were raised as none of the ‘external amenity space’ at the property would be ‘made available for occupiers’ – leaving potential residents often cooped up min their bedrooms.
The historical significance of the building was also raised, with the proposed demolition of a boundary wall and building extension on the current beer garden viewed by BCC as a ‘loss of features of historic value’.
Furthermore, the report goes on to identify that if the application was granted it would result in nearly a third (28%) of the surrounding residential properties – stretching 100m from the Royal Oak – would be given to HMOs and Exempt Accommodation.
It continues to state that a ten bedroom HMO ‘would result in an over-concentration of non-family residential uses in the area’ and any potential ‘public benefits’ would not ‘justify the further erosion of the surrounding area’s family residential character.’
In conclusion, the planning officers report found the proposed development ‘would fail to provide a satisfactory standard of residential accommodation’ and BCC refused the application.
The halting of another HMO in Erdington will come as a welcome relief to local residents who objected to the plans, with hundreds signing petitions from local elected officials to rally against the development.
On 22 June, Erdington Ward Cllr Robert Alden, and Leader of Birmingham Conservatives, launched an online petition against the proposed HMO – citing the ‘cumulative impact of HMOs in this area’ and many of the issues eventually identified by Birmingham City Council in their final notes as to why they refused the application.
On 26 June, Erdington MP Paulette Hamilton also launched an online petition against the development, further writing to the BCC Planning Committee to ‘express my strong opposition’ to the application – referencing a ‘clear… lack of consultation with residents’ and other community stakeholders.
On hearing the Council’s decision to refuse the application, Paulette Hamilton MP told Erdington Local: “It was fantastic to learn that Birmingham City Council have refused the planning application that would have converted the Royal Oak Pub into a 10-bed HMO. I know the decision came as a relief for many local people.
“I’m also proud to have led the campaign that resulted in this decision. We urged local people to submit their concerns and I’m glad that 398 concerned residents backed our petition.
“Today’s result was good, but I remain concerned about the number of HMOs in our community and will continue to represent the best interests of my constituents.”
Erdington Ward Councillor Robert Alden (Conservative) further told: “The refusal of this application is welcome news for our community and the right decision. Thank you to the hundreds of residents who signed my petition opposing the application and wrote to the Council objecting.
“This is again proof of the difference residents can make locally by standing up to the landlords who attempt to break up our community.
“This application was totally unsuitable and would have had a significant negative impact on the area had it been approved. I call on the Council to now reject the HMO application for 120 Gravelly Lane as well.”
But Richard Bates, who lives a short walk from the proposed development, summed up the resilience of local residents in their fight against HMOs, describing them as “a community that is tough as a royal oak.”