FIFTEEN YEARS ON!
On 15 February 2004, a meeting of residents from neighbourhoods from across a wide area of the City of Nottingham, and beyond, agreed to the formal constitution of the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs. One of the driving forces behind its formation was the albeit low-level but persistent anti-social behaviour - predominantly noise, poor waste management (the ‘wheelie bin issue’), bad or non-existent property maintenance – that residents living in so-called 'studentified' neighbourhoods were being subjected to by HMO tenants and their landlords.
By working with each other; with the other groups in towns and cities across the country which together form the National HMO Lobby; with Nottingham City ward councillors and council officers; and with MPs locally and nationally, the NAG helped to affect significant changes to housing and planning legislation which gave, and continue to give, local authorities the better part of the toolkit they need to deal with the problems that unfortunately studentification brings with it. In doing this, the NAG has always highlighted the responsibilities that Nottingham's two universities have in not only acknowledging the problems inherent in studentification, but, and most importantly, in dealing with them.
So, whilst we welcome the joint response from the Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University reported by the Nottingham Post (Yet Again Student House Parties Inflict Noise on Arboretum Neighbourhoods) and the reassurance, given at the U-NAG meeting on 21 February 2019, that they are working together and with other partner agencies and residents, it is truly disappointing and frustrating to say the least that, 15 years on, residents are still experiencing the same destructive effects of that proportion of students whose behaviour is unacceptable and unnecessary. Also, we ask whether the amount of funding the universities are now both providing for additional CPO (over)time is really proportionate to the number of students in the city (around 60,000 we are told), and how well it addresses the obvious strain being placed on Community Protection and other Council services.
No doubt these comments play into the hands of those who label the NAG as 'anti-university' and 'anti-student': it never has been either of these. A good deal of what it has done and continues to do supports Nottingham's universities (and the City of Nottingham) by seeking to improve the quality and safety of the accommodation students live in, whether that is houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) or, for that matter, any other student homes. However, students have a responsibility to behave in a manner that does not make the sort of impact on the lives of others that, yet again, the Nottingham Post has reported on over the past few days. In their turn, the universities also have a responsibility towards those residents whose lives and neighbourhoods are disrupted by the detrimental effects of studentification, and towards the city in which they are located.
This irresponsible behaviour brings students and the institutions they represent into disrepute. It puts an unacceptable strain on the diminishing resources available to the Police, Community Protection and other Nottingham City Council services. It stifles those neighbourhoods, like the ones in the Arboretum, Dunkirk & Lenton, Radford & Park, and Wollaton East & Lenton Abbey wards, which have been burdened with the unwanted and unwarranted label of 'student area', and, so often lost sight of in the emotional and emotive atmosphere created by anti-social behaviour, it continues to prevent them from moving forward to become what they rightfully should be: places where people want to live, and work and learn ... and not leave.
There is no simple answer to this problem. However, it is the NAG's continuing belief that answers can only be found and the problems properly addressed if the will is there to do so. It will only be there if neighbours in all affected neighbourhoods, whether they are within the City of Nottingham's boundaries or beyond, work together and support one another.
A good part of the NAG's history, especially as a group lobbying for recognition of the issues surrounding HMOs and for changes to national legislation and implementation of those changes locally, can be found in the pages of this website, in particular the 'Publications' page. It is by no means a full catalogue: there is much that was and continues to be done in the background and is rarely in a publishable format. However, by looking back through the NAG's history, it is important, as well as gratifying, to acknowledge that progress, slow and painful though it is, has been made. Tto recognise that, despite the groundhog day nature of problems that keep recurring, fundamental changes have taken place, and to thank those people, too many to name, who have helped to make those changes possible and whose continuing involvement is essential if there is to be any hope of future progress.