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City planners slammed over Selly Oak proposals

Council branded 'ridiculous' over project to covert family homes into large student flats near University of Birmingham

City planners have been slammed as "ridiculous" over proposals to covert family homes into large student flats which residents claim make Selly Oak look like a third world shanty town.

Parts of the area were also likened to the Brazilian 'Favelas' slum districts, piled high with dumped rubbish and Portakabin-style extensions, as landlords cram more and more students in.

And in a baffling move, councillors voted to approve the conversion of a semi-detached home at 99 Hubert Road, Selly Oak, but rejected a mirror application for the linked house at number 101.

The council's chief planning officer Richard Goulborn admitted the split decision had "put us in a very challenging position" should the owner lodge a legal appeal.

The vote came after a dozen residents filled the committee room to protest at both applications.

They say landlords in Selly Oak are converting modest semi-detached family homes with extensions and roof conversions to cram in up to 10 students at a time.

Andrew Schofield, of the Community Partnership for Selly Oak, said: "The Bournbrook neighbourhood resembles a third world shanty town.

"Rubbish strewn across the streets, overcrowded, run-down houses with peeling paint and mildewed curtains. Front yards strewn with mattresses and Amazonian back gardens chocked with brambles.

"We don't blame the students, this is the nature of short-term rented accommodation with negligent absentee landlords."

He added that buildings were frequently extended without planning permission, or beyond the permission.

"We have roof extensions which look like Portakabins stuck on top of tenement wings," he added.

Residents also feared that the conversion of both numbers 99 and 101 would lead to the creation of a single student block with more than 20 rooms.

Planning committee member Fiona Williams (Lab, Hodge Hill) backed the residents, saying: "If this carries on, Bournbrook is going to become Britain's first favela."

But her colleague Barry Henley (Lab, Brandwood) argued the applications complied with planning regulations and instead called for a strict licensing regime for landlords.

The committee voted by six to five to approve the first application but then reversed the vote on the second.

Coun Karen McCarthy (Lab, Selly Oak), who appeared in support of residents, described the decisions as "ridiculous".

She added they would continue to oppose any plans for more than six students in a house.

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