Aberavon should be flattened by a bomb, councillor says

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image captionDozens of residents objected to plans to create the first HMO in Olive Street

A former mayor has claimed that rented houses are turning his birthplace into a "ghetto", suggesting it be flattened by a nuclear bomb and rebuilt.

Neath Port Talbot councillor Dennis Keogh blamed houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) for social problems in Aberavon, calling them a "cancer".

He spoke as the planning committee approved an HMO in Olive Street.

Vice-chairman Sean Pursey said HMOs were "absolutely necessary" for many, especially young and single people.

More than 45 people signed a petition objecting to the five-bed development - the first of its kind in Olive Street - with 24 letters also being sent in raising concerns.

One resident said his previous experience of living next door to an HMO was "horrendous", while another spoke of picking up discarded needles in the streets of Aberavon.

Mr Keogh, mayor of Neath Port Talbot until May, said Aberavon "was a beautiful place to live but I wouldn't want to live there now".

"It's turning into a ghetto," he said.

"The only way to sort it out is to use a small thermonuclear device to flatten it and start it again.

"It all centres around rented accommodation - people don't give a damn."

Fellow councillor Nigel Hunt claimed Aberavon was a "ticking timebomb" amid "real concerns about the proliferation of new, unsavoury people" as well as crime, litter and anti-social behaviour.

"These are all profound existing problems in Aberavon that will be further exacerbated by another HMO," he said.

Planning officers said while they had sympathy with local residents, there were no legal grounds on which the application could be refused, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Head of planning Nicola Pearce said authorities including the council and police could work together to identify the root causes of social problems and possible solutions.

A spokesperson for the council added: "The remarks made by councillors in a recent discussion on HMOs reflect their individual views and do not represent that of Neath Port Talbot Council. However, the council is looking to introduce a HMO policy."

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