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Revised Accrington pub to bedsits plan sparks crime fears

A DEVELOPER has made a second attempt to to convert a disused Victorian pub into bedsits provoking concern from neighbours about ‘drug wars and crime’.

In December councillors rejected a bid by Mudassar Iqbal, of the Burnley-based Blackwood Invest Group Ltd, to turn the empty shell of the Britannia in Nuttall Street, Accrington, into a house in multiple occupation (HMO).

The Hyndburn Council planning committee ruled the scheme to create 13 bedsits with two shared lounges was unsuitable because four of the rooms were too small.

Councillors branded the proposal was ‘a rabbit warren’ and some of rooms ‘like prison cells’.

Now Mr Iqbal has come back with a revised scheme with just 10 flats and a planning officer’s report recommends approval.

It says: “The application site comprises the former public house built around 1860 located on the corner of Nuttall Street and South Street in Woodnook, Accrington.

“It is a stone-built two-storey end terrace property.

“It has not been used as a public house for some time.

“The revised application proposes the conversion of the building into a 10 bed HMO over two floors with a communal lounge on the first floor, two small communal kitchens on the ground floor and first floor, and two storage rooms in the basement.

“This is a substantial improvement over the earlier scheme.

“Each bedroom has a small en-suite bathroom.

“The smallest two bedrooms measure 7.5 square metres.”

Two letters of objection said there was no-on site parking; the rooms did not appear very large; there was a lot of rented property in the area; and ‘lots of drug wars and crime’ which the scheme could make worse.

The report says: “The former pub has now been empty for nearly ten years with the interior stripped out.

“Although fears have been raised in relation to an increase in crime, there is no evidence that this would be the case and it would not be reasonable to refuse planning permission on the basis of an un-substantiated fear of an increase in crime.

“The proposed room sizes now meet the minimum standards set out by the national space standards.

“The officer opinion is that the scheme has been improved sufficiently since the first application that it should now be approved.”

The report recommends 11 conditions including the replacement of new windows and doors with traditional ‘historic-style’ ones.

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