Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting WN NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Tough crackdown on new student houses in Worcester
A HARD-HITTING crackdown on student flats could be on the way to Worcester - with city council chiefs admitting they want to avoid “ghettos” being created.
The authority is expected to change its planning rules to make it harder for new student accommodation to be created.
At the moment property owners who want to house students can do so without any interference, a policy which has led to swathes of them settling in areas like St John’s.
But the council’s cabinet is considering making it a firm rule that landlords apply for a ‘change of use’ first.
The idea is being raised because of concerns large numbers of students are congregating in specific parts of the city, including Arboretum and the immediate surroundings of the University of Worcester’s Henwick Road campus.
Councillor Marc Bayliss, deputy city council leader and cabinet member for economic prosperity, said: “This move is not an attack on students or on the university - as a council we put enormous value on the presence of students in our city.
“But it’s important we retain Worcester’s unique character and avoid any danger of student ‘ghettos’ being created.
“By introducing this new planning rule we would ensure the student population is evenly spread across the city, in good quality suitable accommodation.”
There are around 750 independently-owned student houses in Worcester, according to estimates from the council.
The university has 1,200 rooms in halls of residence settings but around 10,000 students in total.
At the moment landlords who run students flats must register it as a ‘house of multiple occupancy’ (HMO), but do not need to make a planning application.
The university’s growth has led to tensions between students and permanent residents, especially over parking.
A statement from the university said: “We encourage our students to integrate and participate positively within their communities.
“On the rare occasion where issues arise, we work with all concerned to resolve issues swiftly, effectively and fairly.”
It added the university hopes any changes “drive up standards of rented residential property” and that all pupils aim to be considerate neighbours.
The council’s planning committee will discuss it tomorrow, and is being asked to recommend the Conservative cabinet change the rules.
If the cabinet backs the proposal it will then go to a four-week public consultation, giving residents the chance to give their views.
A final decision will then be made in May or June before any changes come into force from the summer of 2014.
The ruling would also apply to other home owners who rent out individual rooms.
Councils have had powers to force landlords of new student houses to submit planning applications for a 'change of use' since 1995, but Guildhall chiefs have yet to adopt it.