New student partnership is urged to address residents' concerns
Bristol Student Community Partnership needs to make a "visionary" effort to reshape students' attitudes to the areas they live in, I told the revived body's first meeting on 30 June.
As one of three residents' representatives at the meeting, attended by UoB, UWE, the council, police and others, I called for bolder initiatives to prevent problems happening:
"What residents most want is to end this exhausting cycle where the same problems repeat year after year, often at the same addresses but with different people. Our top priority, therefore, is a bigger attempt to guide students in their responsibilities to neighbours. It needs a sustained, visionary effort—a true game-changer."
I suggested this could be "a key test of whether this partnership can achieve genuine progress."
The meeting, chaired by University of Bristol registrar Lucinda Parr, was held by Zoom and lasted just one hour, which left little time for discussion. Of the 21 people present, 20 spoke to introduce themselves and briefly summarise their concerns.
An earlier version of the BSCP existed several years ago but fell into abeyance.
Group of six
Along with Alison Bromilow, chair of the Redland & Cotham Amenities Society, I represented a group of six residents' associations and a handful of individuals who have participated in an email discussion of student issues over the past year.
In her own remarks, Alison referred to "the impact of this over-concentration of students in HMOs, which includes noise, particularly late-night noise, and waste mismanagement, and the longer-term impact of the non-permanent residents on our local shops and amenities."
She noted that despite the increased amount of purpose-built accommodation being built to house students, "it is recognised that students prefer to live in HMOs."
Combined with the expansion of UoB, she added, this has affected the supply of family and affordable housing, increased the "adverse impact of student residents on the local community", and resulted in a loss of council-tax revenue for the local authority, which in turn has affected its ability to provide services.
The group I and Alison represented includes RCAS, Chandos Neighbourhood Association, Highbury Residents Association, High Kingsdown Community Association, Richmond Area Residents Association and Grange & Mortimer Roads Residents Association.
Also at the meeting was Jill White, chair of the Hampton Park & Cotham Hill Community Group. She said that so far as noise was concerned, the biggest issue for her members is noise from passers-by on the street late at night.
UoB's community liaison officer, Gordon Scofield, reported that his team of student ambassadors had completed "Move Out" visits to 1,400 student addresses, with particular attention to the High Kingsdown, Cotham Vale and Chandos Road areas. A further five student ambassadors were being recruited, doubling the number, and they would now revisit the same 1,400 addresses with "Move In" materials dealing with household waste and noise disturbance.
He also noted that:
Student addresses that had received complaints in the past year would receive a "specialised" visit, probably in August.
Over the summer, PC Sian Harris, the UoB campus officer, would door-knock houses in the Chandos, Cotham Vale and Hampton Road areas.
The university is reviewing its student regulations and will report the outcome when the work is completed.
Changes are planned in the way the university deals with complaints. No further details were given.
Richard Barnston, who heads security and community liaison at the University of the West of England, said he had authority to hire a second campus police officer and hoped to have a presence on the streets at night, when parties were happening, rather than relying on next-day follow-ups. (UWE is not part of the Operation Beech anti-noise patrol provided by the police with funding from UoB.)
Councillors Paula O'Rourke (Central), Tom Hathway (Clifton Down) and Guy Poultney (Cotham) each remarked on the need to bring landlords and estate agents into the partnership's discussions. They cited issues to do with poor-quality accommodation as well as the impact of students and more HMOs (shared housing) on other residents.
The chair, Lucinda Parr, said the partnership would aim to meet four times a year, and future sessions would be two hours each, to allow more time for discussion. Meetings will continue on Zoom and the chair will rotate between UoB and UWE.
The next meeting is likely to be held in September, before the start of the next academic year, with a follow-up around the end of October or early November. (Meetings are held during office hours rather than in the evenings, which has limited the pool of resident representatives who can attend.)
Minutes of the meeting are expected to be made publicly available in due course.
Lucinda Parr said she hoped to devise a work programme for future meetings. The "group-of-six" that I and Alison represent will discuss proposals for goals and priorities over the next few weeks. Readers can also participate, either by sending in ideas via their respective residents' associations or sending them directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any residents' groups who want to join our discussion group are equally welcome to contact me at the same address.