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  • Andrew Waller

Residents' associations urge UoB to adopt 'Respect for Communities' plan

A group of nine residents' associations is urging the University of Bristol to improve the guidance it gives to students on how to live peacefully in the community when they move out of halls from the second year onwards.


In remarks introducing the proposal, I told the second meeting of the new Bristol Student Community Partnership, held by Zoom on 23 September, that better communication was needed to ensure advice reaches as many as possible of the students it's aimed at:


"We do recognise that work is already being done, and many of the right messages are going out. Our concern is the messages don't seem to be cutting through to the extent needed to reduce problems such as noise and waste."


I suggested the tone and content of guidance need to be fine-tuned to increase the chances it will get students' attention and deliver the right information at the right time. The goal was to reach 100% of the target audience.


(I later quoted statistics from two years ago that suggested UoB's 'Move Out, Move In' messaging had reached about 50% of the students getting ready to "live out". That implies several thousand were missed.)


The group of associations (originally six, but three Clifton associations later joined) has two seats at Partnership meetings, alongside representatives of both UoB and UWE, student unions, the police, Bristol City Council, and councillors. Another association, Hampton Park & Cotham Hill Community Group, has its own seat.


I have represented the associations at both Partnership meetings so far. Fiona McVey of Chandos Neighbourhood Association was our other speaker on this occasion.


Our 'Respect for Communities' proposal can be seen here. Although it was listed as an agenda item, there was little time to debate it because other items overran. However, it was accepted in to the Partnership action plan for further discussion, which was our objective for this meeting.


We hope for further follow-up at (or possibly even before) the next session, which is scheduled for 22 October.


The 'Respect' proposal was one of two priorities the associations identified for the September meeting. The other was greater involvement of landlords and estate agents in discussions about student issues in the community.


We heard that local letting agent Flatline Bristol, which manages many student properties, had answered an invitation from UoB to attend the partnership. Dominic Harvey, a Flatline director, briefly addressed the meeting by audio.


Fiona spoke for the associations on the landlord issue, underlining the importance of property-sector involvement. She noted that UoB Students Union has its own commercial agency, Bristol SU Lettings, whose inclusion might also be useful, and raised the possibility that the council's Private Housing Team, which runs the HMO licensing system, might be invited to join too. As she pointed out, most of the issues that concern the community involve students who are living in HMOs, hence HMO regulation is potentially at the heart of future discussions. UoB agreed to make an approach to the council.


Other points of note from the meeting included:


• Operation Beech has been extended through October. (The UoB page to watch is http://www.bristol.ac.uk/accommodation/community/complaints.html, but has not been updated yet.)


• Residents were requested not to text the Beech number (07773 816 248) except during dates and times of operation. (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, from 8pm to 2am.) The number is not monitored outside these times.

• UoB has moved its Community Liaison Office from its Accommodation department to External Relations. New community liaison officer Curtis Asante, who took over from Gordon Scofield in September, reports to Liam O'Shea, Head of Public Affairs.


• Amid discussion about domestic waste at student households, particularly when students are moving between properties, Ken Lawson, the BCC lead on waste, revealed that the council had removed 27 tonnes of rubbish, equivalent to about 4,000 plastic bags, during the recent summer move-out. He suggested there needed to be "more robust" arrangements, although others noted that this year's waste strategy had been disrupted by the pandemic.


• There was a short discussion of whether there was a way to ensure that discarded but still serviceable items (toasters and duvets were mentioned) could be stored, cleaned and made available to future student tenants instead of being thrown away. Several members liked the idea, but a number of practical issues would have to be overcome.


• The Vice-Chancellors of UoB and UWE have jointly written a welcome letter to students which includes specific requests that they be good neighbours. Residents might want to download a copy and have it handy to show student neighbours. (They should already have seen it, but as the 'Respect' proposal notes, a lot of these messages appear to go unread.) It's here:


Joint VCs letter - Sep 2021
.pdf
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