Updated: Jul 12, 2021
The Bristol Student Community Partnership, a new body aimed at improving relations between students and longer-term residents, will hold its first meeting on 30 June, the University of Bristol has announced.
UoB has invited a group of residents' associations in Clifton and Cotham to send two representatives to the meetings.
The line-up is also likely to include the University of the West of England, student-union representatives, Bristol City Council, the police, Bristol Waste, and ward councillors.
The BSCP represents the revival of a body with the same name that existed several years ago, though it's unclear if residents ever attended the previous version.
In a letter to the combined residents' group, UoB registrar Lucinda Parr said the "primary purpose" of the partnership "will be to increase community confidence by bringing together partners to provide a coordinated approach to promote student/community relations and cohesion."
Based on the activities of the previous body, in practice this is likely to mean tackling issues such as noise, waste and anti-social behaviour; sharing information between agencies and partners; and supporting students in private rented accommodation, particularly with regard to welfare, health and safety.
In answer to questions from the residents' associations about how the BSCP will operate, Lucinda Parr said: "I have proposed the BSCP chair rotates on a meeting-by-meeting basis, with meeting frequency determined at the first meeting. Meetings will be minuted and publicly available via the University’s Accommodation Office web pages. Meetings will necessarily be held during office hours."
The residents' associations who've been invited to send representatives to the BSCP originally came together to request resumption of the Community Liaison Group, which UoB abandoned in December 2019. Their joint request was submitted on 17 March. Replying on 12 April, Lucinda Parr said the BSCP alternative "would provide a larger platform, with both universities and our city partners present … I am confident this route will foster more effective outcomes for all involved."
As there was at that stage no start date for the BSCP, the residents' groups wrote back on 4 May asking for an interim meeting with UoB to discuss concerns about noise and waste issues this coming summer. UoB's response, on 19 May, made no reference to this request but said individual associations could request a "one-to-one" meeting with the university.
For the past year and a half, such "1-to-1" meetings have become the main substitute for the now-scrapped Community Liaison Group. Most have been held by Zoom because of the pandemic.
The associations which signed the joint letters to UoB were:
• Redland & Cotham Amenities Society
• Chandos Neighbourhood Association
• Highbury Residents Association
• High Kingsdown Community Association
• Hampton Park & Cotham Hill Community Group
• Richmond Area Residents Association
• Grange & Mortimer Roads Residents Association
Reflecting its ad hoc nature, this "group-of-groups" has no formal name or structure. Its letters to UoB were also signed by four individual residents who have engaged the university on noise and waste issues, including the Noise Pages publisher, Andrew Waller (author of this article).
Some other residents' associations declined to support the joint letters, saying they were happy with their "1-to-1" meetings. In fact, the joint letters supported the continuation of those meetings as a good way to deal with street-level matters. The signatories argued, however, that a forum like the former CLG was needed to discuss broader concerns shared among groups.
The BSCP will be different to the CLG in several ways:
• The CLG met twice a year; early signs are the BSCP will meet more often,
• CLG meetings took place in the evening, and were attended by representatives of the majority of residents' associations as well as several individual residents; BSCP meetings will be held during the day, which may be inconvenient for working residents, and so far only two seats are known to have been allocated to residents' groups (that is, the groups listed above). No mention was made in the UoB correspondence of representation for groups or individuals not connected with the letter signatories, nor whether residents' groups from areas populated by UWE students will also attend.
• Crucially, the two BSCP seats are to be shared between the listed groups. This means the groups will need to maintain a structure that can choose, brief and debrief nominated representatives. As the second of the residents' joint letters noted, with the BSCP, "there is potentially an administrative overhead that was not present with the CLG."
The date for the inaugural meeting of the BSCP was notified to residents' groups by Gordon Scofield, UoB's community liaison officer, in a 10 June email. He asked the groups to nominate two representatives as soon as possible so they can be invited to the meeting.