A HARD-HITTING 'cap' on new student homes has been backed by politicians in Worcester - who say their only regret was not dealing with it sooner.

The city's planning committee has agreed to support a new '10 per cent rule' for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).

As your Worcester News revealed on Tuesday, under the policy a property can only be converted into a HMO if no more than 10 per cent of all the homes within a 100-metre radius have the same status.

It includes a rule that no more than two homes next to each other can be converted into HMOs, in an attempt to spread them out.

It will come into force from July subject to a consultation period and backing from the Labour-led cabinet.

Councillor Joy Squires, speaking during a planning committee debate, said: "This is long overdue and very welcome, because it's an issue many of us have been talking about for years and years.

"Maybe if we'd brought it forward we wouldn't have ended up with the issues we've now got, and could have dealt with it in a more logical way."

She told the committee that in her Arboretum ward, most HMOs were not used by students but migrants, young professionals and people on housing benefit, saying it would "affect different parts of the city in different ways".

The main driver for the policy is to spread out both student homes and properties lived-in by several single people, to ease tensions with nearby families over parking spaces, noise and congestion.

Paul O'Connor, head of planning in Worcester, said it was about "protecting the character" of areas.

Councillor Geoff Williams, city council deputy leader, said: "The policy doesn't say 'you will not get permission for X, Y and Z' it says 'here is the situation, if you meet these guidelines you'll have a reasonable chance of getting what you want'."

In some areas of Worcester like the Bedwardine council ward in St John's, 12 per cent of properties are HMOs, meaning the policy effectively blocks any more.

HMOs are classed as homes where between three and six people live in single beds.

After the meeting a spokesman from the University of Worcester said: "The university welcomes the council’s initiative to manage the impact of HMOs on the local community.

“The growth of the university has had a very positive impact on Worcester, and the university has a number of initiatives in place to ensure that students continue to live harmoniously alongside local residents."