Residents in Beeston this month celebrated the refusal of planning permission on two contentious rental properties in their neighbourhood – but now say they’re ‘deflated and heart-broken’, as the businesses continue to operate as if nothing has changed.
As reported here last month, the two properties – on Mafeking Grove and Avenue, just off Dewsbury Road – have been rented out on a short-term (often daily) basisover the past 8 months, by a company called Aphrodite Suites, via websites including Airbnb and booking.com. The newly-refurbished houses featuring jacuzzis, smart TVs, and other luxury fittings and furniture – and fetch up to £230 per night.
Residents allege that their previously quiet and neighbourly cul-de-sacs have been ‘ruined’ by the anti-social behaviour associated with the Aphrodite Suite lettings: regular late-night parties (with up to 25 attendees), sex work and ‘hook-ups’, prolific drug and alcohol use, and even aggression and intimidation. Residents – who have documented evidence, including photos and video footage – say it’s been ‘devastating’, ‘a misery’, ‘a nightmare’.
A bitter planning battle unfolded, with the business owners requesting back-dated licences for the properties, but dozens of objections were submitted. The properties have also been subject to a ‘partial closure notice’ via a court order, due to the anti-social behaviour. This month (10 November) saw the Council’s planning team turn down both planning applications – citing many of the concerns and issues raised by the residents.
However, the business owners claim that the residents are exaggerating the situation, and running a ‘hate campaign’ against them – so are appealing the decision.
Ozman Hussein, for Aphrodite Suites, told us:
“I was out of work, so started letting these properties as super-luxury serviced accommodation. I would not allow any of the things the neighbours have claimed such as prostitution and parties: I spent a lot on fixtures and fittings, which I took loans out for – so I can’t allow it to be destroyed in such circumstances.”
Indeed, the lettings continue as before, with bookings throughout the week, and parties running as late as 2am – and the properties are still listed online, for bookings throughout the festive period and into next year.
The case has been passed to the enforcement arm of the Council’s planning team – but they insist they cannot take action unless there is proof of ‘harm’, so are appealing for residents to continue gathering evidence of the planning decision being violated.
Furthermore, although fines of up to £20,000 can be levied for breaching planning enforcement notices, these can also be appealed against.
Local mum Emily told us:
“It’s ridiculous: the planning system is so out-dated. They’ve been trading for 8 months without planning permission, and continue now, but aren’t facing any consequences: the recent decision seems to mean nothing. We – the local residents – meanwhile have really struggled to get clear answers and support.
“It’s extremely stressful and upsetting: we were happy it was denied, but I’m now feeling deflated and heartbroken, because we’re no better off.”
Cllr Angela Gabriel (Beeston and Holbeck) added:
“Andrew, Gohar and I have been supporting the residents of Mafeking Avenue and Grove with this – but unfortunately planning is a very slow process and at times very frustrating. The applicant can now appeal to an independent inspector, and we all await their decision.”
The homestay ‘gig economy’ – characterised by companies like Airbnb – is booming: a multi-billion pound global industry, featuring millions of hosts globally. However, it is also facing considerable criticism for its unregulated approach – especially with situations like this.
Homestays taking place in someone’s own home (for instance, in their spare room) do not typically require planning permission; however, where the host isn’t resident, they normally do. If readers have concerns relating to short-term lets, report to the police and Council, and also direct to the lettings companies – for instance, at: airbnb.co.uk/neighbours.