RESIDENTS worried about the breakdown of their York neighbourhood have been dealt a fresh blow.

A national planning inspector has ruled that a property in Badger Hill can be turned into a house of multiple occupation (HMO), overturning a decision by local councillors.

Householders in the area have voiced dismay about the rising number of family homes being converted into student lets, saying that the community suffers in non-term time when properties are empty.

City of York Council last year refused an application to turn a house in Crossways, Badger Hill, into an HMO for seven students.

The council argued the change of use would be detrimental to future occupiers due to a lack of essential facilities, and said neighbouring residents would also lose out.

But inspector Leslie Coop, of the national Planning Inspectorate, said the house was already being used by students and he believed the facilities were adequate.

Mr Coop said: "I am satisfied that the internal arrangements provide an appropriate level of accommodation for the proposed seven students.

"All but one of the bedrooms contain a double bed and I consider the toilet, bathing/showering facilities, the kitchen and utility room and the communal living area to be more than adequate."

Local councillor Roger Pierce said the inspector's decision was regrettable but not a surprise, and called on the Government to recognise student homes as a different class of property.

He said: "The weakness is that national policy does not acknowledge that student residents, or any group of people sharing a house, has a fundamentally different effect on the character of the surroundings than a general household.

"What residents are quite rightly concerned about is not so much the impact of noise, but the change in the character of a community. In the summer, it's like living in a ghost village."

Malcolm Dewhirst, who helped lead the Badger Hill Action Group on the issue, said he hoped the predicted downturn in the housing market may slow the rate of properties being taken over by buy-to-let developers; but feared the future expansion of the University of York could lead to another wave of problems.