Fife residents lose fight to block HMO plan

Picture by JANE BARLOW. 19th April 2012. Students from the University of St Andrews walk along the harbour wall wearing their infamous red gowns.
Picture by JANE BARLOW. 19th April 2012. Students from the University of St Andrews walk along the harbour wall wearing their infamous red gowns.

Residents of a St Andrews cul-de-sac have reacted with dismay after councillors backed plans to turn one of the properties into a house of multiple occupation.

A large delegation of residents from Learmonth Place turned up at a special meeting of Fife’s regulation and licensing committee on Wednesday to voice their objections to an application to use the property at number nine as an HMO for five people. They fear it will ruin their quiet neighbourhood and result in noise, anti-social behaviour and traffic.

And they claim it will create a precedent that could eventually see the whole town turned into ‘one vast campus’.

The application has been lodged by Alison Stephenson, whose family owned the house for over 40 years. She told the committee it had been on the market for over a year without selling, and for financial reasons she and her husband Chris, who live in Staffordshire, had decided to apply for an HMO licence.

She described some of the objectors’ comments as ‘discriminatory’ and gave an assurance that a robust tenancy agreement would be in place.

Fife Council housing official Finlay Ross said the house had been inspected and deemed suitable for use as a house of multiple occupation.

However, there were two minor repairs that had to be carried out before a licence could be granted.

The committee unanimously agreed that the application should be taken forward and the objectors’ concerns dismissed, but once the licence is granted the objectors will have a right of appeal.

A moratorium on HMOs in St Andrews town centre is still in place, and fears were expressed that granting the application could pave the way for them to spread out into residential areas.

Maura Jack, one of 14 residents who turned up at the meeting, said: “St Andrews is already well-served by HMO properties.

“There are hundreds in the town and they are spreading into residential areas. It is impacting on the ability to buy and live here. The town could become one vast campus.”

However Mrs Stephenson said that the university was growing and so was the need for student accommodation.

“All people deserve a home that is free from prejudice and discrimination,” she said.

“Over 30 per cent of the population of St Andrews are students, and the vast majority of them responsible people. The building will continue as a domestic dwelling but a robust tenancy agreement will be put in place.”