Consultation on Council Move to Preserve the Character of Local Communities

  • Consultation launched today on Council move to place further restrictions on the number of HMO's built in each neighbourhood
  • Too many HMO's in one area can change the character of a neighbourhood and cause local tensions

RESIDENTS are being asked to comment on new Council proposals to help preserve the character of local communities by placing further restrictions on the number of houses of multiple occupation (HMO’s) that can be built in each neighbourhood.

HMO’s are houses which have been converted into a number of smaller flats. As a key employment hub in the south-east and home to a large student population, the demand for HMO rental properties in Reading is very high. HMO’s can cause community issues where they are prevalent however, such as pressure on limited car parking spaces, issues with multiple bins in bin storage areas and the loss of privacy and amenity space.

Restrictions already exist in some parts of Reading to limit the number of new HMO’s. They include the need to apply for planning permission for small HMOs in some wards covered by an Article 4 direction, and a 25% limit to the proportion of HMOs within 50m of the application property. The Article 4 area covers much of Park, Redlands and Katesgrove wards, as well as Jesse Terrace.

The Council is now additionally moving to update its Supplementary Planning Document which is almost 10 years old and, alongside the borough’s Local Plan, serves to guide future decisions on planning applications.

Proposed additions to existing HMO restrictions include:

  • Clarification that the existing 25% threshold within 50 metres applies to the total number of residential buildings, as opposed to residential dwellings, within the Article 4 areas 
  • A new approach to proposals for conversion to both flats and HMOs outside the Article 4 area, where the proportion of residential buildings within 50m of the application site would not be expected to exceed 50%. Other criteria would include whether or not the application site falls within the 30% most deprived local areas in Reading
  • Avoiding situations where a residential dwelling is sandwiched between two HMOs.

Members of the public are now being asked to comment on the proposed changes in an 8-week consultation, before feedback is considered ahead of possible adoption of the new policy in March 2023. They can do so by e-mail to by 13 February.

To read the draft SPD ahead of responding the the consultation go to:

Leng, M 2022

Micky Leng, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Planning, said:

“The demand for HMO’s in Reading is extremely high, but there is no doubt that a prevalence of HMO’s in parts of Reading can lead to tensions in a local community. Those can relate pressure on limited parking for example, or multiple bin collections for an HMO address. More fundamentally, it can change the look, feel and character of a local neighbourhood, which existing residents understandably have concerns over.

 “While these properties are in private ownership and the Council cannot prevent new applications for new HMO’s, what we can do is strengthen and update planning policies which then become a material consideration when deciding if an HMO conversion will be approved.

 “That is what we are now proposing, by tightening up the existing thresholds in Article 4 areas around the University, and introducing a new threshold for other parts of Reading where restrictions do not already exist, and where applications for house conversions to HMO’s are spreading.

 “The existing policies relating to new HMO’s are almost a decade old now and it is important we bring them up to date.”

The principle for the existing and proposed new SPD policy for converting houses to flats or HMOs is that it should be assessed against the impact on the amenity or character of the surrounding area, particularly in terms of intensification of activity, loss of privacy, loss of external amenity space, the provision and location of adequate on-site car parking and the treatment of bin storage areas and other related servicing. 

While a conversion from a house to a large HMO always needs planning permission,  a conversion from a house to a small HMO benefits from permitted development rights under planning law and does not therefore generally require planning permission, which is why the Council has already introduced Article 4 directions in parts of Reading where HMO’s are prevalent.