Town v gown rows rumble on over student housing

AFS Team·15 August 2011·3 min read
Town v gown rows rumble on over student housing
Town versus gown rows about student accommodation in university cities is ripping some communities apart. Residents groups and councillors in some university cities are protesting loudly about student housing taking over neighbourhoods and trying to impose strict planning conditions to stop the sprawl. While universities and colleges are looking to private halls and shared houses to accommodate the overspill as more young adults move in to further education. Two cities at the forefront of the town and gown upsets are the traditional university cities of Oxford and York. Oxford City Council is at the vanguard of cracking down hard on plans to build new student housing. Council policy restricts both universities to fewer than 3,000 students in private homes before they can expand research facilities. Executive member for housing Joe McManners said: “It frees up private housing and takes students away from residential streets, something residents wanted.” The council has a track record of trying to define where and how many students live in the city with planning controls. The council has an article 4 declaration that means no house in multiple occupation can open without planning permission. Other efforts were less successful - the council was part of the gang-of-three High Court review with Milton Keynes and Newcastle-upon-Tyne that failed to overturn government HMO policy earlier this year. The council also had to back down from HMO restrictions following threats of a legal challenge from student landlords and letting agents. Meanwhile, York City Council has resisted calls for imposing an article 4 direction even though the latest figures show the number of student properties in two neighbourhoods rose from 219 in May 2000 to 733 in May this year. The government has cleverly stepped back from the row by handing the decision of whether to apply for extra planning controls for student lets to local councils - either way the council is unpopular with property professionals or residents.