A LANDLORD has been given permission to turn a property into a house of multiple occupation (HMO) after winning a planning appeal.

Applicant Robin Durie had originally been refused planning permission by Durham County Council to turn the house in Mistletoe Street, Durham, into a HMO because it was in breach of the authority's interim planning policy, which is aimed at stopping the spread of student housing.

However, that decision was reversed by planning inspector Graeme Robbie who said the street was already heavily skewed towards student properties.

When Durham County Council refused the application in January, it said 58.9 per cent of properties within 100m of the site were HMO –above the interim planning policy's threshold of 10 per cent.

But following the appeal, and a Freedom of Information request by Mr Durie, Mr Robbie said the figure could be as high as 78.9 per cent.

Granting the appeal, Mr Robbie said: "In the context of both a street and a surrounding area that is heavily skewed towards HMO and student exempt properties, I am satisfied that the proposal would be unlikely to result in a material or significant adverse effect on either the character of the area in terms of housing mix, or in terms of the amenities of local residents.”

In Mr Durie's appeal he criticised the council's "flawed" policy and expressed frustration at trying to ascertain figures.

Responding, Stuart Timmiss, head of development and housing at Durham County Council, said: “We currently use council tax data to determine the number of student properties, as it is the most robust basis upon which decisions can be made in line with the interim policy. This approach has been consulted on widely.

“In this instance, when responding to a Freedom of Information request, a calculation error was made, which resulted in the proportion of student properties being overstated.

“This error was fully explained in our submissions as part of the appeal. The incorrect figure was not used when determining the original application.”

It is the second time this month there has been disagreement over how many student properties there are in an area.

An application to convert Corner House, in Potter’s Bank, into an HMO was approved by councillors after a dispute over how many student properties were nearby.

The City of Durham Parish Council is looking into the matter and is planning to carry out its own survey of HMOs.