HMO protest in upmarket area where dentist once told to remove advertisement with picture of lady from his window

2 Museum Square, Wisbech, when it was advertised for sale last year for £175,000. The house was until recently used for...

2 Museum Square, Wisbech, when it was advertised for sale last year for £175,000. The house was until recently used for offices but has permission to return it to a family home. However a new application is for it become an HMO. Picture; ARCHIVE - Credit: Archant

Criticism of proposals to turn Grade II listed offices into a house of multiple occupation (HMO) for nine people have been dismissed by the agent as having little to do with planning or conservation issues.

Nick Seaton, the agent for an Essex man wanting to use 2, Museum Square, Wisbech, as an HMO told Fenland District Council: “We noted that the proposals have generated many comments.

“Very few of these relate to actual planning or conservation issues and concerns, and therefore assume your recommendation at planning committee is for approval.”

He added: “Please confirm”.

The exchange of correspondence is shown on the council website where agreement was reached to extend the timeline for a decision to allow for amendments.

Among the criticisms of the scheme is from a resident of The Crescent who says that “in all likelihood, wheelie bins will stick out like sore thumbs in this conservation area the architectural idiom of which is restrained and sober throughout”.

The opponent adds: “It would be a great shame if, after all the effort invested by the town council into restoring the nearby castle to make it the focus of the community, this building is allowed to become another HMO.

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“That good work risks being lost.”

He adds: “I have to say that, even allowing for the possibility of a good landlord and responsible tenants, it is unfortunately all too obvious which houses are rented and which are not in this area.

“Neglect in one place seems inevitably to lead to, and practically justify, neglect in those places next to it.

“Wisbech is standing, I reckon, at a pivotal moment. Here is a chance to exercise some influence and control in a town that, by rewarding opportunistic development, will no longer reflect or encourage the pride of its long-standing inhabitants.

“Are you going to give Wisbech the chance it deserves?”

He said any alterations to the ‘castle estate’ could compromise the environment “and have a significant jarring effect.

“A few years ago, for example, the picture of a lady advertising the dentists’ in one of its window recesses on the Crescent had to be removed.”

Another objector says the property has seven bedrooms and that could lead to up to 12 people living there.

She says HMOs are not always professionally managed and an HMO on North Brink “is testament to this”.

She claims the HMO has increased levels of anti-social behaviour, noise, nuisance, and alcohol related incidents.

“It creates a sad view and is distressing to residents and the community” she says “These issues negatively impact the lives of law-abiding residents.”

Wisbech Town Council agrees that it would “introduce a type of residential accommodation which would be out of keeping with the nature of the existing residential uses within that part of Wisbech”.

They also say no provision is made for the onsite parking of vehicles.

A third resident complained that the HMO was “not in line with the spirit of the authorities’ claimed vision for Wisbech, nor my own hopes for this town my family calls home.

“Whilst I understand these applications are considered against certain criteria, it is vital that the bigger picture remains in view”.

He said conversion of the property to an HMO “does not enhance this listed building.

“Although I believe occupying the building in some way should aid its chances, the increased wear and tear of tenants in an HMO will render preservation a large-scale task.

“In my view, developing 2 Museum Square from an empty and poorly maintained state is desirable for the community and town of Wisbech.

“However, using the building as an HMO seems very much to be mainly if not solely to the benefit of the property owner. “The immediate and wider area already has a number of HMOs or similar rented properties suitable for people who require this type of accommodation.

“Museum Square, being part of the Castle Estate, is a key tourist, cultural and heritage asset for Wisbech.

“Introduction of an HMO to this site precludes the opportunity for using this building to enhance or indeed promote this important asset. Instead, it threatens to add to the traffic and litter problems already blighting the area”. Time scales for objections are closed.