The VPR Blog


Like most planning authorities, Leeds City Council condition the subdivision of buildings into multiple dwellings on the provision of: a) adequate off-road parking, b) off road, preferably out of sight, bin storage, c) safe bicycle storage, and c) green garden areas. This is, in principle, good policy.

The problem is that our Victorian forefathers in the building trade saw fit to build thousands of terrace and town houses with very little curtilage. Many are attractive buildings in sort after locations, worthy of restoration and conversion. They lend themselves to division into luxury apartments as the lack of garden make them unsuitable for family occupancy.

Hitherto, much of this housing stock has been used as either official or illegal HMOs let to students or the unemployed. This has led to shabby neighbourhoods, poorly maintained houses and streets lined with “to let” boards, bins and rubbish. Ironically, many of these houses persist as HMOs today not due to demand for multiple occupancy, which is falling, but precisely because the lack of curtilage means that landlords cannot obtain planning permission to sub-divide into self-contained dwellings.

I’ve lost count of the number of houses I’ve viewed and concluded that I could convert them into nice flats if only they came with enough land for parking, bins and a bit of garden space.

What is needed is some imaginative thinking from both Council and developers. In some cases a solution would be to sell flats with car sharing schemes tied in. Say, for example, there was a large terrace house ripe for conversion into five flats but with no off-road parking. The council could give planning permission for conversion and provide two designated parking spaces immediately in front of the property on condition that the developer incorporated a car share scheme into the lease structure of the development.

Buyers would purchase the leasehold property and the monthly communal costs would include the cost of one or two shared vehicles. These would be available for the five leaseholders to share. Preference would be given to residents who car shared on work, school or supermarket runs. Hopefully this would allow what curtilage there was to be used for lockable bike storage, bins and garden areas.

Would it work? Would small developer be prepared to invest money in such a project? I believe it could work partly because people who opt to buy flats in shared properties usually accept and value communal cooperation.

I would happily set up such a project if the Council endorsed it. Depending on the characteristics of the property, they would have to either provide exclusive on street parking for the development, or ensure that the Highways Department permitted a couple of front garden parking lots with extended dropped curbs. Above all, such a project would become attractive if it meant that planning permission could be obtained for sub division on properties where permission would otherwise be refused.

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