Victory in ‘Airbnb party house’ battle

Residents whose lives were made a misery by an “Airbnb party house” have won a victory after a planning inspector threw out the landlords’ appeal.

Property owners Hassan and Maryam Khaleghi asked the government-appointed official to intervene when the council failed to make a decision in time over external alterations they wanted to make after the property in a quiet Henleaze street was built to the approved designs.

The new end-of-terrace building at 30 Hobhouse Close had consent as either a two-bedroom family home or a house in multiple occupation (HMO) for no more than five tenants.

But the three-storey property was then advertised on Airbnb for up to 10 people and neighbours told councillors last December that it had created a “revolving door” of unwanted short-stay guests drinking, shouting, fighting and playing loud music late at night.

Mr and Mrs Khaleghi said at the time it was never their intention for the house to be an Airbnb and promised to cease its unauthorised use and turn it into the permitted HMO on a 12-month tenancy agreement, which they are understood to have since done.

But the couple also appealed to the Planning Inspectorate after the council missed a deadline to make a decision on their retrospective application to make changes to appearance of the building. Because of the appeal, the local authority no longer had the power to grant or refuse permission.

But in January, Bristol City Council development management committee voted unanimously that it would have rejected the proposals because they would make the house look out of keeping with the area – the use of the property as a “party house” could not be considered as a ground for refusal in planning, although the authority was considering separate enforcement action.

Now the inspector has thrown out the couple’s appeal.

Their report said: “The main issue is the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area. The appeal property has been added to the end of an existing terrace and unlike other properties it does not have a rounded bow window.

“Rather it has a flat fronted bay window harmfully at odds with the appearance of other windows in the area. Although the submitted plans indicate that pillars would be added to the front of the property, these would be shorter than the others in the same terrace which when taken with the deeper rendered horizontal band would look harmfully out of place. 

“The external black downpipe on the front elevation is a discordant feature which unacceptably harms the character and appearance of the area particularly given that other downpipes on the terrace are concealed. The existing window, the deeper horizontal band, the proposed pillars and the black downpipe would also disrupt the balanced appearance of the terrace and unacceptably break up the uniform appearance and rhythm of this part of Hobhouse Close. As a result, the development (both as existing and proposed) is, or would be, discordant and alien features in the street scene. I therefore conclude that the development both as existing and proposed unacceptably harms or would harm the character and appearance of the area. Planning permission is refused.”

Ward councillor Steve Smith (Conservative, Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze), who has backed residents in their campaign against the property, said: “This case isn’t over yet, and we don’t know where it will end up. The decision by the Planning Inspectorate was the right one, and I hope it sends a strong signal that you can’t just build whatever you want and hope to get away with it.”

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service