NEWS that Falmouth will at last be able to control the spread of multi-occupancy homes across the town after winning a three year battle to implement an Article Four direction, led to tears in the council chamber this week.
Councillor Diana Merrett has long campaigned for the legislation, which will mean anyone wishing to convert a property into a house of multiple occupation (HMO) will require planning permission, and broke down when told it had been granted.
Since 2010, the town council has been trying to convince Cornwall Council of the need for an Article Four direction, claiming areas of the town, Marlborough Road and Kimberley Park Road in particular, have effectively become “student ghettos” with local families being pushed out.
When Councillor Candy Atherton won seats on both the town and county council last May, she took on the fight and this week told her colleagues in Falmouth that Councillor Edwina Hannaford, portfolio holder for environment, heritage and planning, had agreed to their request for Article Four.
She said that as Ms Hannaford had made the decision, it did not need to go before the cabinet, but would be put to the homes and communities portfolio advisory committee for a decision on what parts of Falmouth will be covered by the legislation. It will, however, take a year to implement it.
Ms Atherton said: “Not all the Cornwall Council officers were on board with this. It is not a stick with which to beat the university – it is an opportunity to work together. We have a long way to go, but we are on the road and the decision has been made. We must now make it work for the town and for the universities.”
Breaking down in tears at Monday’s meeting, Councillor Merrett, praised Ms Atherton’s efforts, saying: “I am so tearful. I cannot believe this. We have fought for so long for and for you to come along and get it for us is great.”
Speaking the next day, she added: “Everybody is over the moon. People are sick and tired of walking down their street and not knowing anybody any more. We really need this to bring our local communities back.”
Councillors were told that to enable the Article Four direction to work effectively, they would need to produce a neighbourhood plan to back it up. “If we want the Article Four to be meaningful and to work for the whole community – for the universities and the town – we need to have the two working in tandem,” said Ms Atherton.