On Thursday 2 July I met with Bryan Staff, North Ward planning officer, to discuss the proposed development of a hostel at 66 Crown Road.

Supporting documentation and consultation with residents.

Mr. Staff informed me that the applicant has submitted no documentation to support his request for planning permission other than those available on the Council’s web site. This is not unusual and has no bearing on Mr. Staff’s decision. Equally, the lack of consultation by the developer with the property’s neighbours is not ideal but is irrelevant to the Council’s assessment of the applications’ merits.

The intended residents.

Mr. Staff is aware that a number of local residents, including a governor of Orleans Infant School, have concerns about the kind of people who will be living at the property. Consequently, he spoke by telephone with the developer on Wednesday (1 July 2009). Robert Massie assured him that the development is to be occupied by young professionals and not the recently homeless, ex-offenders, etc.. However, Mr. Staff confirmed to me that this statement is not part of the formal planning application, nor is it binding on the future use of the property. He may ask Mr. Massie to commit his intentions to writing and include the letter in the file of correspondence with the application, but such a letter would not be binding nor form part of the application. Mr. Staff went on to state that the Council has no powers to restrict who resides within the borough. He specified that proximity to the infant school would not be a reason to object to the scheme as anyone could move into the area or frequent the streets leading to the school.

Overuse of site.

Mr. Staff advised me that although the application fails to make special provisions for car and cycle parking, refuse collection, and recycling, the Council has the power to stipulate particular provisions for each issue, and grant conditional approval to the scheme. Further, the rejection of the previous planning application (to convert the property into 2 flats and 2 bedsits) on the grounds of car parking and overuse of the site is irrelevant to this application. Each application is judged on its merits, and is neither bound by nor refers to previous application rulings.

He advised that he would assess matters such as the ratio of bedrooms to bathrooms [8 bedroom to 1 bathroom and 2 wcs], and the number of rooms without a window [bedrooms #2 and #5, bathroom, and kitchen and living space appear from the plans not to have windows]. As the Council does not have any established density criteria for the occupancy of residential dwellings, he stated that this property’s proposals would be judged on their own merits.

Loss of amenity.

In general, the Council’s policy is to support the reversion of commercial property to residential use, but Mr. Staff felt that the change of use from a social amenity to a private residential dwelling may not be desirable for the Borough and would have to be considered. He was unfamiliar with the details of the doctors surgery and thought that it operated only on the ground floor, with the rest of the property being unused or flats.

The number of HMOs in the borough.

Mr. Staff does not know how many HMOs operate within the borough, nor whether Robert Massie owns or manages any of them. He advised that both issues are irrelevant to his decision.

HMO licence.

He thought that the property might require an HMO licence but wasn’t sure (the council’s own web site states that it does). Without such a licence, the property could not be let to tenants. He is not aware of a licence application for this property.


Prior to making a decision, Mr. Staff will consult the council’s

  • Transport Department re parking;
  • Planning Policy re the property’s role as a doctors’ surgery;
  • possibly Environmental Health re the density of occupation and the quality of the property’s provisions, and
  • local residents’ objections.

Under delegated powers from the Planning Committee, he has the discretion to either reject the application, or, if he recommends it for approval, send it for review by the Committee. Residents who have objected to the development will be informed of the date of the Committee’s hearing.

Bottom Line

The idea that “young professionals” would want to live in an 8 bed hostel and share bathroom and kitchen facilities with strangers is not credible. When you were “a young professional” did you want to live in a hostel? Neither did I. A few friends and I chose to share a flat in a busier, younger, less family dominated part of inner London. I suspect today’s “young professionals” will want to do something similar. So who will live in the hostel? According to Mr. Staff, anyone can live there – Mr. Massie’s statement of intent is not binding and the Council has no power to veto its residents.

Proximity of the development to the infant school and your children is irrelevant.

Eight bedsits may house more than 8 people. Although an HMO of 8 bedsits requires a licence and a manager, he/she does not need to be resident in the property. The plans for 66 Crown Road make no provision to accommodate a manager. Mr. Massie may be the manager. He lives in Pulborough – 50 miles from St Margarets.

No parking, refuse or recycling provisions have been made in the application. The refuse / recycling mess from 8 people will cause further clutter, untidiness and a feeding frenzy for foxes.

If young professionals are the target market, it is possible that they will own cars. 8 more cars from one house will exacerbate the parking congestion in Crown Rd, Napoleon Rd, and Claremont Rd.

The rejection of the previous planning application for overuse and congestion is irrelevant. At least one local resident has expressed the opinion that the grounds for the previous rejection hold true for the current application. They do, but unless local residents communicate such objections once again to the Council, Mr. Staff and the Planning Committee will not take them into account.

Action Required

1. Prior to July 16th, as many local residents as possible should submit objections to Mr. Bryan Staff at b.staff@richmond.gov.uk , telephone: 0845 612 2660.

According to the Council’s leaflet “Objecting to or supporting a planning application”, suitable grounds for objection include:

  • adequacy of parking – car and cycle
  • adequacy of refuse and recycling provision
  • highway safety
  • traffic generation
  • noise and disturbance
  • previous planning decisions (although this is inconsistent with Mr. Staff’s views)

You may know of other grounds for objection. Please share them here.

Local residents may also wish to refer their concerns to the only ward councillor who is not part of the Planning Committee

Liberal Democrat and Deputy Mayor of the Borough, councillor Ben Khosa.

Ben can be contacted at

  • 15, Tayben Avenue, Twickenham, TW2 7RA, home phone: 0208 408 0586,
    email: cllr.bkhosa@richmond.gov.uk
  • The Mayor’s Office, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, York House, Richmond Road, Twickenham
    TW1 3AA. Telephone: 020 8891 7123, Fax: 020 8891 7701, e-mail: mayors.office@richmond.gov.uk

If anyone else has discussed the hostel development with the Council, I would very interested to hear their feedback.

— from Greg Hughes