Despite more than 4,000 objections, Nottingham City Council looks set to pass legislation requiring planning permission for Houses in Multiple Occupation (known as HMOs), a move aimed at restricting student numbers in areas such as Lenton and Dunkirk, which currently have high student populations. This move follows legislation that brought in parking permit charges for students but not for permanent residents.
The Council believes that the Article 4 Direction, which if passed is due to come into effect on 11th March 2012, is the only way to redress the balance of areas with large amounts of HMOs, as well as driving up standards of accommodation in the areas affected. The University of Nottingham’s Students’ Union, which has launched a campaign to try and prevent the plan’s implementation, fears that this move will drive students out of the community and into purpose-built accommodation. The SU also argues that this would have a knock-on effect in driving up housing prices, making it harder for poorer students to afford to study in the city.
Following the consultation period, which finished on 31st May 2011, there were 188 residents and interested parties who objected to the plans, with only 65 expressing support. Some 3,819 students, from both the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, also signed a petition opposing the move. The University and the local Labour MP, Lilian Greenwood, support the proposals, though the University have called for greater clarification over what exactly the council defines as ‘community balance’.
Pete Mercer, the NUS Vice-President for Welfare, has condemned the plans as discriminatory towards students. “I don’t think the general public would think it acceptable to implement a similar policy for migrant workers or for the elderly, so I don’t see why it is appropriate for students. Essentially, what they are doing is segregating students from local residents.”
Meanwhile, local volunteering services have expressed concerned that if students leave the area they will struggle to find volunteers. “We don’t have many residents volunteering” said Joel Lambert, the Manager of the Crocus Café, “So we’ve always been running off and thriving off student volunteers.”
The council-funded Nottingham Action Group (NAG), whose principle aim is to reduce HMOs in the city, claims that their occupants’ lifestyles “generate high levels of noise, traffic and waste” and ruins the community for residents. NAG fully support the move and believes that those who oppose the move are uninformed about the situation. Maya Fletcher, speaking on behalf of the group, said, “I think the opposition is ill-founded. It is based on a lack of understanding. It is the first pro-resident, pro-Nottingham legislation that we have had in ages. It is not anti-student”.
Georgia Thresh, the Postgraduate Officer for the Students’ Union, is particularly concerned that these proposals will hit postgrad students the hardest, “The proposals haven’t considered postgrads at all. The only thing that has been considered is the ‘typical’ student – the way people expect students to behave. That couldn’t be further removed from the truth about the majority of the postgrad community”.
The vote on the legislation takes place on the 22nd November.