On Thursday 6th December, a Community Question Time took place in Lenton Methodist Church, organised by Nottingham University students Giselle Regis Agyare, Jordanna Zetter and Tyler O’Sullivan.
Sitting on the panel was the MP for Nottingham South, Lilian Greenwood, Chief Constable Chris Eyre, Citizens UK representative George Gabriel and University of Nottingham’s Politics Course Representative James Potts.
Although the event saw a modest turnout of roughly fifteen people, Lilian Greenwood was optimistic, telling Impact that “every movement starts with a small number of people”.
One of the recurring issues raised in the discussion was the problem of communication between students and established residents in heavily student-populated areas such as Lenton and Dunkirk.
Greenwood noted that “tensions inevitably rise” but these can be addressed through communication on both sides and “sharing hopes and aspirations”. George Gabriel, from Citizens UK, a community-building organisation, argued that the “frictions need to be managed” by focussing on an issue of shared concern. Uniting established residents and student residents on a single issue is a method that Gabriel argues has been carried out successfully in other communities across the country.
Second Year UoN student, James Potts, said the focus should also be on education. Potts argued that educating students while they are in University Halls about living alongside established residents of Nottingham is a stepping-stone for better relations. However, Potts also noted that the nature of relations between established and student residents should be based on “common sense”.
The problem of student turnover is central to the concern with the relationship between students and established residents. Lilian Greenwood, speaking to Impact after the event, said that “the frustration that long term residents feel is because the student population changes on a regular basis- the residents feel like they have to keep going every time there is a new year, so you can understand why they might feel warn down by that”.
She went on to say that “it’s up to students to take responsibly for themselves, and find the best way to ensure people can live side by side respectfully, whether they are students or not”.
An issue that has been prevalent on the agenda of SU Community Officer Sian Green is that of parking permits. As current council policy stands, students pay parking permits while long-term residents do not. James Potts said that this was a “categorically unfair system”. Other members of the panel agreed it was unfair to be making a distinction between long-term and student residents, there was a consensus that it allowed students to “give back” to the community. Gabriel noted that students are “sharing a city, so they share the responsibility to make it better”.
Sian Green was unable to attend the question time, but told Impact that she was “very impressed to see Tyler [O’Sullivan] have the initiative to organise the question time and to hear our students engaging in our local community”.