PART II: NOTTINGHAM  & NEIGHBOURHOOD

CONTENTS


The Editor’s Ramblings:
Spring Tide
 
Cannakale
Nottingham University:
Community Engagement Strategy 2009-2014
Respect for the Community
Nottingham University News
University Reveals Next Phase in £90m New Buildings Programme
£200k Shanghai Gamble to Showcase University's Global Ambition Pays Off
20m Eco-Friendly Hotel for Nottingham University
 
 
Kusadasi & Patmos
Nottingham Trent University:
Inspiring the Future of Learning
Student Community Liaison Manager
Secret Lives of Peregrine Falcons
New Homes for Students
Post Scripts:
Welcome to Student Community Manager
Regional Civic Trust Awards
Return of the Falcons
 
 
Rhodes
Unipol:
            Celebrating Three Years in Nottingham
Landlords Thrown Out for Breaching Nottingham Student Housing Code
What You Need to Know About House Hunting
The Unipol-DASH Code Explained
Official Start Date for House Hunting
Why Do Third Year Students Get the Best Houses?
 
 
Rhodes to Pylos
National HMO Lobby:
A Problem Shared
HMO Lobby Report November 2011
Keeping the Peace
News from the Leeds HMO Lobby: ‘Headway’
 
 
Pylos & Katakolon
Nottingham City Council:
Sustaining Balanced & Attractive Neighbourhoods
Houses Are More than Bricks Mortar Money
‘First Person’ Thoughts on Housing and Homes
Licensing of HMOs:
New City-Wide HMO Licensing Powers Introduced [in Oxford]
Nottingham Consultation on Additional Licensing for HMOs
HMOs & Planning Controls:
Nottingham’s Article 4 Direction
Consultation Responses
Council Executive Board Confirms Article 4 Direction
Observations on Nottingham’s Article 4 Direction
Postscript: As One Door Closes Another Opens
And Now ... The Rest of the News
Housing
Housing Nottingham Plan
Land & Planning Policies
Private Rented Sector Housing Council Tax
 
Corfu
Nottingham Action Group on HMOs:
Report of the Committee of the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs November 2011
Our Neighbourhoods: A Vision for the Future
 
 
Dubrovnik
Neighbourhood Perspectives:
The Letting Board Jungle
Is it Lenton or To-Let-On?
Letting Boards Enhance Lenton
Open Meeting on the Control of ‘To Let’ Boards
Letting Boards: An Up-Date & Stop Press
Tackling Neighbourhood Eyesores
A Student’s Perspective
Nottingham in Bloom: It’s Your Neighbourhood
All Saints Peace Garden
The Lenton Drives
Friends of Hawton Spinney
Around the Queen’s Medical Centre & Its Neighbourhood
‘Blooming Marvellous!’
‘Kick the Butt’ Week at QMC
Planting for the Future
The Park Residents Association:
HMOs: The Fears & The Facts
Neighbourhood Constituency MPs & Ward Councillors
 
 
Dubrovnik to Venice
Invitation to the Captain’s Table
Orange Cake
Chocolate Fudge Brownies
Lemon Cheese Cake
Chocolate ‘Tort-ure’
Porter Cake
Dubrovačka Rozata
 
Part II End Note: The Editor’s After Thoughts
The Grey Havens: Farewell Liburnija



THE EDITOR'S RAMBLINGS
SPRING TIDE

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Pelješac Peninsular & Channel from Korčula Old Town: photograph courtesy of & ©J.R. Fletcher

 

‘That past is still within our living memory, a time when neighbour helped neighbour,  
sharing what little they had out of necessity, as well as decency.’

[Mary McAleese]

Prominent on the front cover of this magazine is the banner:

 

National
 Nottingham
Neighbourhood
News
Views
Information
Action

It encapsulates what the NAG, through the magazine and whichever other media are available to it, seeks to try and bring to you news, views and information from whatever source about what is happening that is relevant to the NAG and, I hope, you, the reader: nationally,  in Nottingham, and of course in our own neighbourhoods.

Part I of this magazine was almost entirely focused on how to control HMOs and the formulation of national planning and housing legislation aimed at doing just that. It also charted the way in which individuals, groups and institutions of one kind or another have influenced, or with varying degrees of success have tried to influence, the shape of that legislation from January 2010 onwards.

Part II is very much rooted in Nottingham with the focus turning to the organizations and people whose dealings by and large affect us and our neighbourhoods: Nottingham City Council, the two universities and their students’ unions, students, landlords and agents, and Unipol. However, there is one exception.

The National HMO Lobby is very much at the heart of an extended national neighbourhood. We in the NAG are a part of it and without it we alone would not have been able to secure the national changes which are now enabling changes to happen at a local level, and which, with some luck and a following wind, will trickle down to help us and our neighbourhoods.

Our neighbourhoods and what goes on in them are not left out. They never could be!

I’ve picked three examples from the ‘Neighbourhood in Bloom’ initiative, one from each of the Council’s Neighbourhood Areas in which the NAG has members. I could have added more.

Although not part of the most recent ‘Neighbourhood in Bloom’  initiative, the QMC and its neighbours have been working together to try and ameliorate the effect that too much brick, concrete, tarmac and thoughtless patients, visitors and staff have on the surrounding neighbourhood. This effort reached a high point in January when a ‘planting for the future’ of trees and shrubs took place around the Derby Road-QMC entrance area.

However, I haven’t forgotten the perennial problems associated with untidy gardens, rubbish, litter, anti-social behaviour; the ‘wheelie bin syndrome’, which too often exists cheek by jowl in the same neighbourhoods. Explaining how Nottingham City Council is trying to deal with these problems is covered by an article by one of the Council officers charged with doing just that.

I’ve also included a student’s insight into his life in one of our neighbourhoods, and The Park Residents’ Association has contributed some useful thoughts and advice of its own on HMOs.

Constituency MPs and ward councillors are our elected national and local representatives. They need and want to know about the goings on in our neighbourhoods. So, I’ve added contact details for our two MPs and for those councillors who represent wards in the City with NAG members in them.

A week after the Liburnija docked in Istanbul, she was sailing back up the Adriatic towards Venice.

By tradition, the last night on board is the time for the very special ‘Captain’s Dinner’. So, how could I avoid including here also, along with recipes fit for the Captain’s Dinner, an invitation to dine at the ‘Captain’s Table’?

 

Prijatno ... Enjoy!

[Editor, 22 February 2012]



Cannakale
NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY:

Troy.png

The South Gate, Troy VI, Turkey: photograph courtesy of & ©’Dodo’ Carr


‘The Wrath of Achilles is my theme, that fatal wrath which in fulfillment of the will of Zeus brought the Achaeans so much  suffering and sent the gallant souls of many noblemen to Hades … Let us begin, goddess of song, with the angry parting that took place between Agamemnon King of Men and the great Achilles son of Peleus. …’ 

[Homer’s Iliad, Book I, translated by E.V. Rieu, Penguin Books]


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY 2009-2014

Note: A company employed by Nottingham University in August 2009 conducted a consultation on its developing Community Engagement Strategy. This Strategy has been published and can be downloaded from the University’s website (www.nottingham.ac.uk). However, as it is a relatively small document which really should to be available to everyone in the NAG, it is reproduced here in the magazine.


MISSION STATEMENT

The University of Nottingham is committed to active engagement with its local communities. We aim to do this in a constructive and mutually beneficial way in order to improve access to the University, its facilities and resources, to exchange knowledge and skills with others as well as to engage on local issues and community agendas.

 

BACKGROUND

The University of Nottingham has been part of the City of Nottingham since 1881, gaining its Royal Charter in 1948. While we have expanded both in the UK and overseas we remain committed to constructive engagement with our local community. We recognise that via our 7,000 staff our 37,0001,2 students and the research we undertake that we provide major contributions to the social, economic, educational, environmental and creative life of our City and Region. We also acknowledge that, alongside these benefits, there may be challenges associated with integration, understanding and access.

We wish to demonstrate our firm commitment to our local communities by setting out this strategy which lists our short, medium and long term priorities. We do this with the intention of driving continuous improvements in our engagement with and contribution to our local communities in the future.

 

PRINCIPLES OF WORKING

—We believe in mutual exchange and dialogue – this includes working actively to consult with local people, schools and colleges, community groups who interact with us in terms of interest or geography, local businesses and local authorities.

—We believe in embedding community engagement in our planning, people, resources and strategic infrastructure across all Academic Schools and Administrative Departments.

—Community engagement will be supported via an over-arching strategy, creating a mechanism for review, best practice and communication.

 

THE STRATEGY

The strategy focuses on key constituencies that staff and students have identified as being core to our work and mission. These include:

•Our neighbours, local people who reside near the University

•Early years provision, Schools and Colleges within the City and Region with a particular focus on the area within a 20-mile radius

•Community, voluntary and charitable organisations in the City and Region (sports, arts, culture, faith, health and social care, etc.)

•Local government and Regional bodies

•Local and regional businesses

Other strategies which are also of relevance to the community engagement agenda and where we share common ground include: Research and Knowledge Transfer and Business Engagement, Schools Engagement, Widening Participation, Student Volunteering, Student Accommodation, Sports and the Centre for Career Development.

 

STRATEGIC THEMES

We present five key themes in promoting and enhancing our community engagement, within our broader mission:

 1. Opening up our physical environment and resources

Aims:

•To promote public access to our campuses

•To support appropriate use of our facilities by the public, schools and charitable/voluntary groups

 

2. Sharing and exchanging knowledge and skills
Aims:

•To support local research partnerships

•To support student placement opportunities in a variety of workplaces (Public/Private and Voluntary Sectors) to support the development of employability skills

•To provide workplace experience for individuals and groups under-represented in the organisation

 

3. Contributing to key civic agendas
Aims:

•To contribute to key civic agendas in the following areas: Social Cohesion, Neighbourhood Management,

•Business and the Economy, Sport and Culture, Early Intervention, Crime and Safety

•To contribute to civic and regional partnerships via senior staff representation, e.g. One Nottingham, EMDA


4. Being good neighbours
Aims:

•To foster positive relationships with individuals and community groups in the immediate locality of our campuses

•To promote and support students as active and responsible citizens

•To be proactive in managing student accommodation issue

 

5. Promoting and supporting education
Aims:

To promote and support:

•educational aspirations and an interest in education

•educational attainment


1. Approximately 30,000 at the Nottingham campuses (2008-9 figures)

2. Of the students at the Nottingham Campuses 3181 live on University Park, 750 on Jubilee campus and 521 at Sutton Bonington. A total of 1168 live at Raleigh Park, 2055 at Broadgate Park and 801 at St. Peter’s Court. The remainder (21,524) either live in private houses, other developments in the City (Cotton Mill, Riverside. Manor villages etc.) or at home (2008-9 figures).

 

 

RESPECT FOR THE COMMUNITY

The University of Nottingham aims to maintain positive relationships with its local communities and every student who registers with the university signs up to the following statement:

‘I also acknowledge that I have responsibilities to the communities in which I am temporarily resident and undertake to act with consideration and respect for the welfare and interests of members of the wider community and my fellow students.’

The University of Nottingham encourages students to show consideration for people whose lives are likely to be very different from theirs – young families, older residents and people working at all times during the day and night. Our students are and continue to be the best possible ambassadors for the University simply by being good and considerate neighbours and we actively encourage this throughout the academic year.

Many students volunteer, making a positive contribution to the communities in which they are temporarily resident. They take part in a range of projects from literacy schemes in Nottingham schools to environmental projects in Lenton and Dunkirk. We also work with the Police, Fire Services and Local Authorities in order to get messages out to students about crime prevention, fire safety, waste management and being responsible neighbours whilst they study in Nottingham.

We recognise that occasionally challenges an arise. The University is committed to meeting these challenges through proactive campaigns and when problems do occur we make every effort to alleviate them quickly and efficiently. Melanie Futer, Manager of Off Campus Student Affairs, provides a point of contact and theNeighbourhood Helpline, a 24/7 voicemail service, can be reached on 846-8666. Messages are usually responded to within 24 hours with the exception of bank holidays and weekends.

For further information contact: melanie.futer@nottingham.ac.uk

[Courtesy of www.nottingham.ac.uk]



NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY NEWS


UNIVERSITY REVEALS NEXT PHASE IN £90m NEW BUILDINGS PROGRAMME

The University of Nottingham has revealed its vision for the latest phase of a £90m revamp of its campus buildings.

Three new state-of-the-art, environmentally sustainable buildings will be created on the University Park Campus, with a fourth on the university’s Sutton Bonington site.

The university is half-way through a five year multi-million pound redevelopment scheme, which has already led to new buildings opening up on its Jubilee campus.

The proposed building programme is the biggest of its kind on University Park in around 40 years.

The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor David Greenaway, said: “These buildings will create a new benchmark for excellence in the surroundings and facilities provided to students and staff here at The University of Nottingham.

“Teaching and learning are our core business and it is our priority to provide the best possible environmental infrastructure and educational technology as well as quality of teaching. We aim to create an inspiring and harmonious place to study and work.”

The latest phase will see a new £10m Engineering and Science Learning Centre built on land between the Pope and Coates buildings on University Park.

Groundwork has already started to prepare the site for the 3,500 square metre horseshoe-shaped building, designed by Hopkins Architects and to be used by both the Engineering and Science faculties.

A new £8m humanities building will also be built next to the School of History at Lenton Grove, off Beeston Lane, on University Park, for the Departments of Archaeology, Classics, Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, and Art History.

It has been designed by Nottingham architects CPMG and will use ground-source heat pumps and bore holes for heating and cooling.

A £7m mathematics building is to be built on the site of the original Institute of Engineering, Surveying and Space Geodesy building on Cut-Through Lane, University Park, and has been designed by Nottingham-based architects, William Saunders and compressed straw bales are to be used in the building of a new £7.15m biosciences and School of Veterinary Medicine and Science building at Sutton Bonington.

The university says a budget for the new buildings has been carefully planned over several years, using cash from the Higher Education Funding Council for England's Capital Investment Fund and the university's own funds – including income from alumni fundraising activities.

Professor Alan Dodson, the university's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Environment and Infrastructure, said: "The University's continued capital investment in teaching and learning infrastructure reflects both our confidence in the future and our commitment to provide outstanding, sustainable facilities commensurate with our position as a top 100 Global University.

“Our aim is to deliver [an] 'excellent' rating for sustainability for all new buildings on our campuses, as part of our commitment to being a leading 'green' university.”

[Business Section, Nottingham Post2 June 2010]


£200k SHANGHAI GAMBLE TO SHOWCASE UNIVERSITY’S GLOBAL AMBITION PAYS OFF

The University of Nottingham says its gamble – a six-month presence at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 – is beginning to pay off.

It is seeing a surge of interest in many areas of education and research with more than 400 serious business inquiries and collaborative ideas.

The university spent £200,000 on the project and pro-vice chancellor Prof Chris Rudd is back in Shanghai chasing follow-up opportunities.

The main aim was to promote the university’s strategic global approach to higher education.

The university established a campus in Ningbo five years ago, which now has 5,000 students, and plans to open a Shanghai campus in 2012.

It also has a campus in Malaysia.

Prof Rudd said the long-term aim was to attract new funding streams for research and knowledge transfer, attract more students and improve engagement with its alumni.

He added: “Expo 2010 provided a compelling platform to showcase our portfolio of work in sustainability, conveying our message to a genuinely global audience.

“Being at Shanghai Expo reminded us all that resource management population health and climate change are problems that respect no national boundaries.

“Every new visitor to our pavilion exhibition left with a clear sense of these messages but they were also alive to the knowledge that some of the world’s most creative and dedicated scientists are improving lives, driving economic growth and helping our cities to eat, drink and breathe.”

Shangai Expo attracted 74 million visitors.

And hundreds of thousands explored through words, pictures and videos, the university’s world-changing research in sustainability as part of its collaborative exhibition based on the theme “Zero Carbon, Zero Waste”.

Events during the six months included a Drug Discovery conference which led to several prominent pharmaceutical companies beginning to develop with the university a pharmaceutical research and development centre in Shanghai.

A global food security event strengthened relationships with multi-national food producers.

An event on carbon capture and storage launched a major new UK research facility, the National Centre for Carbon Capture and Storage, a catalyst for strengthening relations with both the Department of Energy and climate change (DECC) and the global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute.

Prof Rudd said the university’s presence helped boost the number of graduate applications from the region seeking to study in Nottingham, up from about 200 to more than 400.

He is also in talks with one of China’s largest aero-space industries, opening up possibilities for the university and the City of Nottingham.

“Similar conversations are under way with other industries as well which could lead to jobs.” he added. 

[Richard Tressider, Nottingham Post, 14 January 2011]


20m ECO-FRIENDLY HOTEL FOR NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY

Construction is due to start in July on a new 200-bed up-market hotel a the University of Nottingham. With planning permission already in place the University’s Council has now given approval for the £20m eco-friendly hotel. which will be built on University Park, adjacent to the East Midlands Conference Centre. The  hotel, which will be funded entirely by the University, will be available for use by conference delegates, university visitors, local businesses and the general public.

The hotel, which is due to be completed for opening by the end of 2012, will be built to the highest environmental standards. It will feature state-of-the-art technology to reduce carbon emissions, as part of the University’s strategy to become an ever more environmentally-friendly institution.

It will feature executive-style rooms, meeting and conferencing rooms, a gym, restaurant and a bar.

Features of the eco-friendly building will be accessible roof top terraces, green roofs and maximum use of natural daylight. Open spaces will provide superb views of the University’s extensively landscaped campus.

Use of the latest technology will help to reduce carbon emissions. Solar photovoltaic panels and ground-sourced heat technology have been incorporated into the design, which will also include a lower energy assisted-cooling ventilation system.

The hotel is aiming to achieve an ‘excellent’ rating under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM), which recognizes low-impact buildings which incorporate the best environmental practice.

The University has developed a series of award-winning buildings that have underlined its commitment to sustainable architecture and construction.

Chris Jagger, Chief Estates and Facilities Officer at the University, said: “The hotel will enhance the existing range of conference facilities provided by the University. It will provide a source of excellent quality accommodation all year round, not only supporting the existing meeting spaces provided by the award-winning East Midlands Conference Centre, but also for visitors to the University.”

[Nottingham University Press Release, 6 July 2011]



Kusadasi & Patmos
NOTTINGHAM TRENT UNIVERSITY:
Inspiring the Future of Learning

NTU.png

The Newton-Arkwright Buildings: photograph courtesy of & ©Nottingham Trent University


‘I'm not afraid of storms,
for I'm learning to sail my ship.’ 

[Aeschylus]

It would be a mistake to overlook the fact that Nottingham has two white (rather than ‘ivory’) towers: Nottingham University’s Trent Building and Nottingham Trent’s Newton Building.

Since the late 1950’s the Art-Deco style of the latter has been the city centre landmark of what at that time was the Nottingham and District Technology College, but which, in its turn, morphed into Trent Polytechnic and of course is now Nottingham Trent University.

Dwarfed as it is by the Newton Building, It would be rather sad if the history of the Arkwright Building also were to be overlooked, if for no other reason than that, as University College Nottingham, it is where D.H. Lawrence studied for his teaching certificate, and is: ‘The big college built of stone, standing in the quiet street, with a rim of grass and lime-trees all so peaceful  … a magic land.’ [D.H. Lawrence, The Rainbow, 1915].

‘Former university college, public library, technical school, natural history museum, now university building’ it was originally built between 1877 and 1881 to house University College Nottingham (now Nottingham University). ‘The building has historic importance as a landmark in the architectural provision of education in England. This building is unique in bringing together three cornerstones of Victorian education thinking, the further educational college, the public library and the museum. … It has been at the heart of the developments of both of Nottingham’s Universities and as such is the single most important educational building in the city.’

British Listed Buildings, from which this description has been taken, has the full listing description of the Arkwright Building. [See:www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk.] 

Nottingham Trent recently completed the challenge of regenerating the Newton and Arkwright Buildings (both now Grade II listed) to create what the university’s Annual Report 2009 called ‘A New Heart for our City Campus’.

Unfortunately, when you pass by the university it is only on Goldsmith Street, where the new building linking the Newton and the Arkwright Buildings is now the main entrance to the university, that you are  likely to get more than a glimpse of how much work has been undertaken to blend the new with the old.

However, although photographs do not always do justice to their subject, I hope the ones I have included in this section of the magazine (courtesy of Nottingham Trent’s Annual Report 2009) will give you some inkling of how the challenge has been met.

In common with Nottingham University and other universities in towns and cities across the UK as well as overseas, another challenge for Nottingham Trent is that of its student population and relationships between them, local people, and the university itself.

At the February 2011 meeting of the Nottingham Action Group, Nottingham Trent’s Tim Woodman-Clarke announced that the university was about to advertise the newly-created post of Student Community Liaison Manager. The specifications for this post have been published now and I thought you would find it interesting to take a look at the job description and some of the principal duties and responsibilities that will go with the post.

 

STUDENT COMMUNITY LIAISON MANAGER

 JOB DESCRIPTION

‘To proactively lead the effective and efficient delivery of the University’s warden system incorporating a team of Residence Assistants and to co-ordinate ‘off-campus’ student matters on behalf of the University including establishing strong links between the University and external stakeholders and to promote harmonious relations between students and local communities.’


[EXTRACTS FROM] PRINCIPAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES

—Taking responsibility for ensuring that all aspects of the Warden Service and off campus elements of the role both comply with and delivery against the Student Code of Behaviour making sure that there is a consistent application of the code and the agreed NTU disciplinary procedures for all breaches.

—Enhance the visibility and benefits of the Wardens Service and off campus initiatives both in relation to pastoral and disciplinary capabilities within the overall student community, including working with Integrated Marketing and Student Accommodation Services to ensure a presence at recruitment related activities such as University Open Days and university publications.

—Engage in greater visibility and education of the student body in relation to their responsibilities to fellow students, staff and the wider Nottingham Community under the provisions of the Student Code of Behaviour.

—Ensure that NTU is perceived enthusiastically and effectively to engage within the communities within which the campuses and students are based. To create and maintain positive relationships with all relevant community stakeholders who will include Unipol, the police, local councils, local community groups, University of Nottingham, etc. developing strategies for ensuring effective liaison and cooperation between stakeholders for the university’s standing as a responsible institution in the community context.

—To drive and support initiatives within local communities to enhance both student and NTU’s institutional reputation within Nottingham including the marketing of the enrichment to local communities that can arise from the presence of the university.

—Taking responsibility for the recording and responding to complaints, providing a single point of contact regarding students’ conduct and liaising with other university colleagues such as the Pro Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs ensuring compliance with all relevant university policies and ensuring relevant action is completed within acceptable timescales.

—To develop a robust out of hour’s procedure ensuring buy in and full undertaking of all parties involved and to assist in and coordinate out of hour’s emergencies as required. …

[Editor]

SECRET LIVES OF PEREGRINE FALCONS

New cameras will reveal the secret lives of rare peregrine falcons in the city centre.

The nest site, on Nottingham Trent University's Newton Building, has been closely protected and monitored for ten years because of the threat posed by egg collectors and the risk of disturbance.

In the last four years, adult peregrines have raised 12 chicks there.

Now, following security improvements, people will be able to watch the nest round the clock.

The university has joined forces with Notts Wildlife Trust to launch a camera, with footage shown on the internet.

Paul Lawton, head of Estates Services at Nottingham Trent University, said: "We feel very privileged to have a breeding pair of these magnificent birds on our city campus, and obviously take the responsibility that this brings very seriously.

“We have worked closely with Notts Wildlife Trust and other parties over the years to ensure their safety and the appropriate environment for breeding and the time is now right to give others the rare opportunity to witness these birds of prey close-up.”

Notts Wildlife Trust conservation officer Gaynor Jones Jenkins said: "After years of carefully monitoring the nest site and working to keep the site safe and relatively secret, it will be wonderful to be able to allow the public to enjoy these special birds.

With so few pairs in the county and the very real threat of the eggs being stolen or the nest being disturbed, we have had to err on the side of caution, but with the nest site now fully secure, we can let people see the birds in all their majesty.

The cameras went live yesterday as part of National Nest Box Week, and Notts Wildlife Trust hopes that the footage of such rare birds in the heart of Nottingham will help raise awareness of its new Wildlife in the City project.

Mrs. Jenkins added: "We want to highlight just how rich urban areas can be for wildlife and to show that you don't have to head off to the countryside to see exciting creatures – they are here on our doorstep.

“What better way to get this message across than by enabling people to see live footage of one of our most fascinating birds of prey, right here in Nottingham.”

The Trust and the university have also been working with Notts Police and the National Wildlife Crimes Unit to develop a DNA database for birds of prey to help fight wildlife crime such as the theft of eggs and chicks.

DNA has already been isolated from feathers collected from nests in the Notts area and preliminary DNA profiles have been generated.

A clip from the peregrine camera is available at www.thisisnottingham.co.uk. To view the cameras live, go to www.ntu.ac.uk/falcons.

[Jon Robinson, Environment Correspondent, Nottingham PostTuesday, 15 February 2011]


NEW HOMES FOR STUDENTS

NEW HALL

Student Accommodation Services were delighted with the completion of the new UPP Halls of Residence on the Clifton Campus. 

The residence which replaces the old Gervase Halls consists of 12 blocks offering 727 state of the art student bed spaces. These are made up of both cluster flats varying in size from 2 to 10 with spacious shared kitchen facilities and also 151 self-contained studio rooms.  Each of the blocks has been named after local rivers all of which are tributaries to the ‘Trent’.

The reaction from students and their parents over the recent arrivals weekend was fantastic, New Hall had certainly exceeded their expectations many likening the accommodation to that of a 5 star hotel!  The rooms are competitively priced costing £118 per week and studio rooms £132 per week.  Clifton campus can now offer accommodation to 1486 students and the new development ties in wonderfully with the refurbishment of the student unions’ The Point giving the students on campus access to some great facilities.

 

BYRON HOUSE

On the back of the ambitious and widely-regarded development at Clifton, Nottingham Trent University has unveiled plans for a £60m redevelopment at its city campus.

It plans to demolish Byron House, home to the Students' Union, and create a landmark building in Shakespeare Street near its junction with Waverley Street.

The redevelopment will include 900 rooms for first-year students in Shakespeare Street and nearby Gill Street. Facilities include a sports hall, entertainment area, fitness studio, shops, bars and medical centre.

The university has spent £170m revamping its campus in recent years including the award-winning £90m redevelopment of the Newton-Arkwright Buildings opened two weeks ago by naturalist and TV presenter Sir David Attenborough.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Gorman said: "The Byron House redevelopment is part of an ambitious estate regeneration programme which, over the last six years, has resulted in significant changes across all three of our campuses. The driving force behind the changes has been to provide an inspiring environment for both students and staff, while at the same time reinforcing our commitment to urban regeneration."

He added they plan to create "an iconic landmark at the northern gateway of the university's city site".

Demolition will begin in January 2012, and will be completed for the start of the 2013/14 academic year.

 [Nottingham Trent University Communication, December 2011]


POSTSCRIPTS

WELCOME TO NOTTINGHAM TRENT’S STUDENT COMMUNITY LIAISON MANAGER

As a graduate of Nottingham Trent (2001), I have lived in Nottingham both as a student and a non-student, giving me a valuable insight into, and understanding of, the relationship between the local communities, and the university.

There is great potential for further and more positive integration and interaction between students and the wider city, and I am committed to facilitating this through working closely with both statutory bodies, and local residents at an individual level.

The first six months have certainly been a steep learning curve, but most people have been extremely welcoming and supportive, reflecting the need for the role, and the expectations held of it.

In the coming months, I will continue to seek to build strong and positive relationships between community groups such as NAG, and further develop the positive impact that the university and its students can have on Nottingham.

The support of Maya and the members of NAG is key to delivering this, and I’m grateful for the encouragement I’ve received so far.

I want to continue to address the challenges that are sometimes posed, and identify creative and sustainable ways to build greater understanding and awareness between students and the city as a whole.

[Mark Simmonds, Student Community Manager, December 2011]


REGIONAL CIVIC TRUST AWARDS

 As reported in the ‘Business News’ section of the Nottingham Post on Tuesday, 11 March 2011, the refurbishment by Hopkins Architects of Nottingham Trent’s Newton and Arkwright Buildings has won a regional Civic Trust award.

In its citation (www.civictrustawards.org.uk) the Trust said:

‘Nottingham Trent University is to be congratulated on their decision to restore two disparate, under-used, malfunctioning Grade II listed buildings and unite them with the City matrix; giving a late Victorian building and a mid-20th Century one new meaning, visibility and usefulness.

The two buildings have been integrated into one new, accessible complex with generous circulation and social activity space that is informal and flexible.

Detailing throughout is immaculate, yet simple and the wonderful new courtyard provides an outside semi-private space; a functional link between existing buildings.


RETURN OF THE FALCONS

The Nottingham Post reported on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 that the webcam monitoring the Nottingham Trent peregrine falcons has gone live to mark the start of this year’s National Nestbox Week. In 2011 The peregrines were viewed more than 250,000 times. A new high-definition camera has now been installed so that viewers will get better quality pictures over the internet than they did last year. To view the blog and cameras for this year, log on to www.ntu.ac.uk/falcons.


 EDITOR’S NOTE

I rarely wax poetic about architecture, which is not to say that I’m completely devoid of interest in the subject: far from it. It’s just that, on average, when it comes to buildings I’m pretty much a philistine. However, I do know what I like, and, as you may have gathered, I very much like Nottingham Trent’s restoration of the Arkwright and Newton Buildings.

The pity is that it’s only when you visit the Arkwright and Newton Buildings that you get a good idea of how well the job has been done: the photographs dotted throughout this section don’t do justice to it. So no surprise, if I understand correctly, that the Civic Trust award has been only one among many.

Mark Simmonds is Nottingham Trent’s first Student Community Manager. The extracts from his job description will give you a good idea of what he’s charged with doing. My thanks to him for coming up with the reports and associated illustrations on Nottingham Trent’s development at its Clifton campus and its plans for the redevelopment of the Byron House site in the city centre. From this it does seem as if Trent is serious about providing homes for its students as well as its peregrine falcons.

By the way, they successfully fledged/graduated during the summer.

As Grant Anderson, Nottingham Trent’s Environmental Manager, said in the Nottingham Post‘We are delighted that the falcons keep returning each year. ...’

At least as far as I am concerned, writing something about oneself is not a task that I ever want to do. So my very special thanks to Mark for agreeing to write his introduction to himself.

When we first met, he was very new to his post, but definitely learning to sail his ship – welcome Mark!

Mark’s contact details are:

Telephone: Nottingham 848-4290; E-Mail: mark.simmonds1@ntu.ac.uk



Rhodes
UNIPOL:
Celebrating Three Years in Nottingham

Rhodes.png

Mandraki Harbour, Rhodes Town: photograph courtesy of & ©Oren Rozen


 ‘Houses mean a creation, something new,
a shelter freed from the idea of a cave.’

[Stephen Gardiner]

 

Note: When the accumulation of detritus reaches the point where it threatens to overwhelm every corner of my ‘office’, I begin to wonder whether its time for a clear out, especially of paperwork I haven’t had reason to look at for quite some time.

Not that I’m about to consign back-issues of the NAG magazine to the recycling bin – at least not yet! But the fact is that, once published, their contents tend to be relegated to an ‘archive’ file in my memory, largely forgotten until something reminds me to take another look.

On the 11 January 2011, a meeting at the Council House in Nottingham celebrated three years of Unipol in Nottingham. Which is why it was serendipitous that, while hunting for something else, I found myself reading an article by Scott Blakeway (then the Welfare and Equal Opportunities Officer at Nottingham Trent’s Students’ Union) in the Winter 2006-Spring 2007 issue of the magazine (p.14) entitled: Why Nottingham Trent Students’ Union and the Nottingham Action Group want Unipol Nottingham to become a reality’.

Looking back, some of what was written in 2007 now sounds rather naïve. Not everything has come about that was hoped for, and some never will. However, should there be a need to justify the NAG’s decision in 2005 to invite Martin Blakey and his colleague from Unipol to Nottingham in the first place, then this report in the Nottingham Post should do just that.

It should also show that no matter how many safeguards are put in place on their behalf, ultimately students themselves are the only ones who, by reporting problems with properties and landlords and agents, can allow others to take enforcement action on their behalf.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether students heed Unipol’s advice and avoid renting properties from landlords and agents who behave as these landlords have done.

 

LANDLORDS THROWN OUT FOR BREACHING NOTTINGHAM STUDENT HOUSING CODE

Two landlords have become the first to be thrown out of a student housing standards scheme in Nottingham.

Max Choudhuri and Fatima Jabbar lost their accreditation with student housing charity Unipol for breaking a code of conduct covering the city’s student landlords.

The breaches were discovered after complaints from students at a property in Derby Road, Lenton.

They included not having a valid electrical safety certificate for the property, failing to deal with repairs within required time frames and issues relating to the students’ deposits at the end of their tenancy.

Martin Blakey, Unipol’s chief executive, said: “These landlords agreed to abide by standards laid down in the Unipol DASH Code that they did not actually meet and students should bear this in mind before they consider renting properties from them in the future.”

The DASH code, which stands for Decent and Safe Homes, was set up in 2008 to help students find homes with reputable landlords.

Unipol found Mr Chouldhuri and Dr Jabbar were flouting the voluntary code of practice following complaints from tenants.

A tribunal was held last month, the results of which Unipol has just made public. It ruled they had both committed a series of breaches of the code.

The DASH code is supported by the University of Nottingham, Nottingham Trent University and New College Nottingham, and 400 landlords are members. Both universities advise students to prioritise Unipol DASH Code landlords when looking for private-sector accommodation.

Stephen Dudderidge, director of student operations and support at the University of Nottingham, said: “The university wants all its students to be able to access safe, secure, good-quality and fairly-priced accommodation.

“Raising awareness of the Unipol DASH Code among our students, and taking decisive action against landlords in breach of the code, helps maintain high standards of accommodation for our students.”

Councillor David Liversidge, city council’s portfolio holder for housing, said: “Both landlords agreed to abide by the regulations laid out in the code and have failed to do so.”

The tribunal took into account Dr Jabbar signed the Unipol DASH code declaration form in September 2008 and was therefore the accredited landlord, but Mr Choudhuri signed the tenancy agreement and dealt with the tenants.

A legal spokesman for Mr Choudhuri said he was considering taking legal action against Unipol over the “flawed and biased” tribunal.

He said: “As a result of the tribunal, the landlord made it very clear that he did not want to be part of the Unipol.

[Bryan Henesey, Nottingham PostMonday, 18 October 2010]



WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HOUSE HUNTING

Note: There are many different ways in which Unipol tries to help students tackle successfully one of the most important (and potentially most costly in human as well as monetary terms) decisions they have to make while at university: the roof over their heads, and the people they share it with.

The Unipol Housing Tabloid is one. Another source of good information and advice is the Unipol website. With this year’s formal house hunting season upon us, I hope theses extracts will give you a taste of what both have to offer to Nottingham’s students.

The link to the website is: www.unipol.org.uk/nottingham.



 THE UNIPOL DASH CODE EXPLAINED

Whether you’re still looking for accommodation or have already found somewhere for next year, it’s well worth knowing if your future landlord supports Unipol.

In Nottingham, Unipol operates the Unipol DASH code. this is the official accreditation scheme for student housing in the city. The Code covers not only physical standards relating to a landlord’s properties but also how they go about managing their property portfolio. To join the code landlords and managing agents have to sign a declaration form to say they agree to abide by these standards. Staff from Unipol then inspect a sample selection of their properties to ensure that the specified standards are being met. We also speak to tenants to find out how well the landlord/agent manages the property.

When you search for properties on the Unipol website it’s easy to see which landlord’s properties are accredited as they are always shown with a blue background.

The main benefit for students of accreditation is that it means if you are renting from an accredited landlord they have already voluntarily agreed to meet the standards of the Unipol DASH Code, some of which are significantly higher than their minimum legal obligations. As you might expect, wherever possible Unipol recommends that you rent from Unipol DASH Code landlords. By doing so you have greater peace of mind and in the event of any problems with your landlord or house, you can contact Unipol and we will help you to resolve the situation.

Because managing agents tend to have larger portfolios, containing different types of properties, Unipol distinguishes between two different levels of membership for agents who wish to become accredited.

Full Members – This is when an agent is able to declare that all of the properties they manage meet the standard of the Code.

Code Supporters – A managing agent can also become a Supporter of the Unipol DASH Code. However, it is important to realise that supporters are NOT FULL MEMBERS of the Code. Instead they sign up individual properties as accredited rather than their whole portfolio. In addition, they also agree to advertise their Unipol DASH Code properties separately from non-Code properties to avoid potentially confusing tenants.

So wherever you choose to live, try and find out whether your landlord or agent is registered with Unipol and if your agent is a Code Supporter, make sure that the particular property you are interested in is covered by the Code.

[Housing, Unipol Tabloid, April 2011]


 

THE OFFICIAL START DATE FOR HOUSE HUNTING 2012-2013

The official start date for house hunting 2012-2013 is Monday 23 January 2012. On this date Unipol Nottingham will launch its full list of student properties.  Last year there were more than 10,000 bed spaces advertised on the website making the Unipol website the most comprehensive listing service available for Nottingham students.

 

Why Do We Have an Official Start Date in Nottingham?

Over a number of years, due to pressure from letting agents and landlords, combined with a lack of knowledge of the overall student accommodation market in Nottingham, the time of year when students felt they should start looking for housing crept further and further forward. This reached a point where first year students had barely moved into their halls before they felt pressured into having to think abut accommodation for the next year.

Since 2007 the two Nottingham Universities,  Nottingham City Council and Unipol have come together, in the interest of students in Nottingham, to agree an official start date.  This agreed date aims to provide students with sufficient time to:

  • get to know the City of Nottingham and the full range of possible locations they could live in
  • decide who they really want to live with
  • concentrate on studying for their January examinations without the worry of having to house hunt at the same time.

 What Are the Dangers of Signing Before the Official Start Date?

Each year Unipol hears of students who choose to ignore the official start date and sign for a property early.  Many think they can to gain an advantage by jumping ahead of everyone else, others simply panic as a result of pressure from their peers and landlords. In truth these students are much more likely to be paying the premium prices which landlords and agents hold out for when they first market their properties. They will also be selecting their accommodation from a much smaller pool of properties than will be available after the official start date.

By waiting until the 23 January not only will you get to choose from a greater range of properties but you will able be able to see how different rent levels compare and where the best value can be found. Between now and the start of the 2012-2013 academic year your circumstances can change and friendships formed in the first semester don’t always last through to the end of the first year.  Equally not all students pass their January examinations.  This can be quite distressing but if you have already signed for a property it can also have serious financial consequences. This is because contracts to rent properties, once signed, represent a financial commitment which can’t simply be walked away from. For this reason take your time, don’t be rushed by anyone and make sure you are absolutely certain about what you are doing before you sign anything.

 

Why Do Landlords & Letting Agents Advertise Their Properties Before the Official Start Date?

Not all do. The majority of Unipol DASH accredited landlords support the official start date and appreciate the reasons behind it. By waiting until the 23 January they know the students who view their properties will have considered their options fully and are more likely to be better tenants than those who rush into decisions before the start date.

However, it is also common knowledge that Nottingham has a surplus of student accommodation and, as in any competitive business, different players will employ different tactics to gain market advantage.  Many unaccredited landlords who are not accountable to the Unipol DASH code choose to advertise before students are able to see the whole market on the Unipol website.  Other landlords and agents who charge premium prices or additional fees find it easier to justify these costs before the full picture of the Nottingham Market becomes apparent after the 23rd January.

 

A Final Thought

Unipol understand that students will often come under great pressure from friends and landlords/agents to make early decisions on their housing. However, in a market where there are considerably more bed spaces than students, ask yourself who really gains from you committing yourself to a property early, you or the landlords/agents?

 

WHY DO THIRD YEAR STUDENTS GET THE BEST HOUSES?

Advice for First Year Students

There are a number of things that you can do to make sure you get the best house possible for your group.

  • Work out who you want to live with. Think about this carefully as you will end up living together for a whole year. If there are things that are irritating now a year can be a long time
  • Explore areas of Nottingham to decide where you want to live. Have a walk around different areas at different times of day and make sure you like the atmosphere and feel safe
  • Work out how much you can afford (don’t forget gas electricity etc.). This is a common mistake that many students make. Make sure that everyone in the group decides a budget and sticks to it. TIP: the general standard of student housing in Nottingham is very good so you should easily find a property of excellent quality around the average rent
  • Discuss what you want in the property. Not everything will be possible but your group could draw up a list of essentials and desirables. TIP: If you are in halls your internet is normally already sorted. In the private rented sector some houses have this, some do not. Internet is relatively easy to install so don’t let this put you off a property if it isn’t there already
  • Look into the legal aspects of renting – what are your landlord’s responsibilities and what are yours. Your Student Union is there to help you and will offer a free contract checking service so you can be happy that the contract you sign is fair. All tenancies that are signed for next year properties will be subject to the new Tenancy Deposit Scheme (TDS). TIP: look at how this will affect you by picking up a leaflet in the accommodation bureau or looking at the website
  • Take your time. Contrary to opinion there are plenty of good houses left well in to the house hunting season. There is a surplus of accommodation in Nottingham, which means that you are well positioned to get the right property for you at the right price. TIP: If you leave your house hunting to later in the season you can often negotiate more easily with landlords
  • Don’t feel pressured. Unipol DASH Code have agreed as part of the Code to give you 24 hours to seek independent legal advice on a contract before you sign anything. TIP: Take the time to make sure you are happy with your group and the house
  • Don’t believe the myths. Many Non-Unipol landlords would have you believe that everyone needs to pay sign up fees this is simply not true. Plenty of landlords who advertise with Unipol do not charge a sign-up fee. TIP: Some landlords and agents are charging larger than normal sign up fees and not charging deposits following the introduction of the new TDS – remember if this is the case you will get none of this money back

So although 3rd year students often have good houses this does not mean that you have to compromise. Use the tips above, understand the market, don’t rush, read the information that will be coming out from your institution, Student Union and us and you too could have one of the best houses.

[Unipol Website, January 2012]




Rhodes to Pylos
NATIONAL HMO LOBBY:
A Problem Shared

Marko_Polo.png

Marko Polo, Mljet Channel, Croatia: photograph courtesy of & © Matić, www.marinetraffic.com


‘You learn to know a pilot in a  storm’

Note: Isolation, emotional as well as physical, is well-known  in scattered rural communities. It is arguably also the most insidious effect that concentrations of HMOs (with their absentee landlords and transient occupants) have on the neighbourhoods around them, and the circumstances of the other residents living in them. Yet  it doesn’t seem to have been recognized to anything like the same extent as those other, very well-documented, problems associated with HMOs, even though, over time the pernicious nature of that isolation can weaken the strong, and destroy the vulnerable. However, knowing one is not alone helps to build a bulwark against such dire circumstances.


NATIONAL HMO LOBBY REPORT NOVEMBER 2011

Milton Keynes Council continued a rearguard action against the revised legislation. On 20 January 2011, the High Court permitted a Judicial Review, which took place on 30-31 March. The Lobby submitted a Witness Statement in support of the Council. But the judgement on 11 April went against Milton Keynes.

CLG published an Issues Paper on How change of use is handled in the planning system; the Lobby responded, in the light of its experience of the Use Class Order. Then in July, CLG published the Draft National Planning Policy Framework, which will replace the various existing Planning Policy Statements; again, the Lobby has responded.

The demand for HMOs remains volatile, in England at least. On the one hand, student demand seems likely to decline. Surveys and reports, reproduced in the press, indicate that "tuition fee increases, coupled with declining numbers of 18-24 year-olds in the general population over the next decade, will see a 14% decline in British higher education student numbers over the next ten years ... half (52%) of all younger students will choose a local higher education establishment and stay with their parents" [though the level of demand will vary between universities]. On the other hand, housing shortages and changes in housing benefits will give rise to new demand for HMOs from other sources.

All the information above concerns England only.  Each of the other countries of the UK is following a different route.  Since 2004, Northern Ireland has had thorough HMO licensing (if not entirely comprehensive), and in the same year, HMOs were brought under planning control.  Since 2008, policy in Belfast has set a threshold of 10% HMOs per street, with some areas excepted.  An inter-agency group, led by Belfast City Council, has since undertaken a research study into the Holyland area (where HMOs are most concentrated), with a view to presenting proposals for rebalancing. The key proposal is to build purpose-built student accommodation away from residential areas, and there is already interest from developers and a number of sites around the city centre are under consideration.

Meanwhile, in Scotland, all landlords have to register, and all HMOs are subject to licensing; but HMOs remain in the same class as family houses. However, Sustainable Communities Scotland (SUSCOMS), our sister organisation north of the border, has lobbied successfully for significant clauses in the Private Rented Housing (Scotland) Act 2011 (which come into effect in January).  One is a link between licensing and planning, giving local authorities the power to refuse to consider an application for an HMO licence if it considers that there would be a breach of planning control. The other is the use of licensing effectively as a planning control, giving local authorities the power to refuse to grant an HMO licence if it considers that there is overprovision of HMOs in the locality; implementation of Section 13 of the Act has been delayed in order to give Councils time to develop local HMO policies.

Further details of the National HMO Lobby’s activities are available on the ‘History’ and the ‘National Developments’ pages, on the Lobby’s website: www.hmolobby.org.uk.

 NATIONAL HMO LOBBY BRIEFING BULLETIN

‘KEEPING THE PEACE’

In October 2011, a member in Southampton asked, “Do HMO Lobby members know of any cities with guards provided, to tackle student antisocial behaviour?”

A number of members responded, as follows:

 

Your situation sounds very similar to what we had to put up with in Bournemouth five years ago.  After several community meetings, we eventually got the police, the council and the university working from the same page.  The following happened; not all at once but very gradually and please don’t think we have cured the problem.  The disease mutates every September when the next year’s tenants arrive at the Student HMOs.  It will not be 'cured' until there is a sustainable balance of HMOs in the community and not the saturation policy we have now.

1. We now have a dedicated police officer for the University.

2. All the Police SNT teams communicate week with the Unsocial Behaviour Officers, and the University disciplinary team.

3. The Students Union hold education 'responsible neighbour' seminars for Student HMO tenants, including a community film and 'Welcome/Introduction' strategies involving both the students and the permanent residents.  This is a major commitment from the Students Union.

4. The University and all the agencies recognise that the problem is not with the 'new' students, they spend their first year in Halls, but with the second year students who move into HMOs.

5. All reports of unsocial behaviour that are reported to the police or to the council are followed up by Bournemouth University or the Arts University College.  Hundreds of students have been fined and given warnings that any repeat behaviour will result in their dismissal from the University. Depending on the severity of the offence a final warning is issued(this has never happened, no one has ever got to this far.  Repeat offending students often leave the University of their own choice.

We have regular meetings which bring all the agencies and interested parties together.  At the last meeting the following organisations were represented: Neighbourhood Police Team Inspector, University Police Constable, University Student Welfare teams, University PR team, University Students Union, Unsocial Behaviour Team, Local Residents Forums, Neighbourhood Watch teams, Street Cleaning Team, Waste Disposal Team, Local Councillors, Planning Officers, Housing Officers, Local Press.  There may be more, but I think you get the picture.

 

There is no street policing by our 2 Universities, though Bristol University has a 'dedicated PC' (presumably funded by Uni). He provides liaison with Police generally, and as a uniformed officer, adds a bit of clout if involved over public misdemeanours by students.

The sort of scene described exists, but it is fair to say that following establishment some 3 years ago by Bristol Uni Accommodation Department of a 6 monthly meeting of Uni, Students Union, Residents representatives, things appear to be somewhat better.

Residents find it worthwhile to complain, Uni will check that the houses concerned have their students, and read riot act. Persistent offenders can be hauled before their professor, and warned that reprimands may go on academic record.

 

We don't have quite what our colleague in Southampton would like, in Leeds.  We do have Walksafe, where the police look after students along the main thoroughfare from the centre of town into Headingley, at the beginning of the year (for new students' protection).  And last winter, Headingley Street Angels was launched, to reduce ASB at night (for a report, see Headway #35).  The two unis in Leeds run a Helpline, and follow up complaints - quite effectively, I think.

See: Leeds University’s Neighbourhood Helpline is at: ww.leeds.ac.uk/ace/community/helpline.htm


Here in Loughborough we have forged good relationships with the University, the Students Union, the local council and the police over a period of eleven years.  The University Security officers who work on campus can be contacted to deal with rowdy behaviour from student houses at night and will patrol on request if we report unacceptable noise/behaviour on the street.  The Students’ Union Executive also play a responsible role in trying to educate students to respect the community.  We also have a Warden in the community to liaise between students and residents and to take disciplinary measures if necessary. The police run a campaign designed to educate and protect students re crime. They increase police presence at night for the first month of the academic year, especially during Freshers’ Week.  But then, Loughborough is only a small town not a big city – population about 45,000 with another 15,000 when students are here.

From Alison Barlow, Community Relations, Loughborough University: Here at Loughborough our system involving Security works as follows:

1. We operate a 24 hour ‘helpline’ to residents to report problems and issues of concerns. Where possible our Security will respond to these calls and try and intervene, particularly if the problem is associated with a particular house. Security will check our accommodation records to see if we have students there and then attend if resources allow. They will endeavour to resolve any situation they find. E.g if music is loud, get the students to turn it down. The University has three community wardens covering the main student areas and any issues reported to Security then get passed to the community wardens for follow up. The wardens will assess the situation, interview the students and discuss the issues with residents and plan a response accordingly. This may involve advice to students, a warning or even discipline (the University’s regulations set this out.

See:www.lboro.ac.uk/admin/ar/calendar/ordinances/current/17/index

2. Security also do pro-active patrols of the key student areas in Loughborough. They aim to spot potential issues and resolve them if possible. E.g by moving groups on. The University invested resources in additional security staff to provide this response several years ago following campaigns by groups like SARG and discussions with them. It is important to stress that we do not have permanent Security guards in any particular locations. The service is a response service.

The University works very closely with the Police and the ASB team at the Council and we try and plan a joint response to issues. The Council and Police operate an incremental approach to ASB and where matters are reported to them they will visit students if necessary and provide warnings etc. This obviously depends very much on the nature of the incident and the evidence available. If students ignore warnings or letters they would find themselves being scaled up the incremental approach. I am not aware of this ever happening here.

One thing we have found is that this system works well in a place like Loughborough because of two factors:

(a) The size of the town. Security staff can get to key student areas in just a few minutes because Loughborough is relatively small.

(b) There is only one HE Institution and although we always check our records there often no issue of the students belonging to another institution.

I think it is also important to stress that the system is not perfect and incidents still do occur but on the whole my understanding is that SARG and other residents believe the service is a valuable one.

See: Loughborough University Community Wardens Service:

www.lboro.ac.uk/studentservices/community-wardens-service.

Loughborough University Community Information: www.lboro.ac.uk/service/publicity/community


Your e-mail mirrors the experience of residents in student HMO areas in Manchester. It is heartbreaking to see a neighbourhood degraded and broken up by profiteering landlords on the one hand and inconsiderate anti-social tenants on the other. It is absurd that much needed family housing is used to accommodate students for 30 weeks of the year (essentially second homes) and in my view is a major failing of the policy to expand Higher Education.

I see from your e-mail address that you are part of a Residents Action Group. It is in my experience essential to work with others not only for personal support to deal with the appalling situations encountered on one’s doorstep, but to make any dent in the blinkered attitude of the Authorities.

The difficulty is so many agencies need to work together to find solutions, Police, Universities, Local Authorities, including Private Sector Housing, Planning and Licensing among other departments.

Here in Manchester a local Civic Society [Withington] started the ball rolling 3 years ago with a Public Meeting bringing together representatives of all the agencies. The concern and commitment of local Cllrs to such initiatives is vital too. Perhaps your action group has done something similar?

Manchester City Council has responded most notably by setting up a ‘Student Strategy’ to find ways forward, supporting the financing of an Off-Campus manager appointed by the Universities and backing the National HMO lobby’s campaign to change the Planning Law re HMOs and implementing the changes into the Local Development Framework. A tower of strength now is the Council’s anti-social behaviour action team, working with the Off Campus manager, but they can only deal with problems linked to specific addresses. Local groups are also providing evidence to withstand the granting of extended hours at pubs and clubs and to press for a cumulative impact policy.

However the fact is that in some areas student HMOs so dominate the population and the drinking/clubbing culture is so embedded in university life that we sometimes despair of having made any progress at all. The drunken mayhem on the streets during the night and in and around some HMO properties remains an unsolved problem dreadful for residents including those students who don’t want to be part of it.

So another public meeting is being convened this time by a Residents Group to find new solutions and many ideas are being canvassed including police initiatives, PCSO patrols after midnight, enforcement of conditions in HMO Licensing schemes, University codes of conduct/discipline to support the Off Campus manager, Student Union involvement etc.

It is all very time consuming but it is quite wrong that people are driven from their homes and thriving balanced communities lost to landlords and temporary tenants – bad for every-one.

In Newcastle, the Council operates a Night Time Noise Service, Nightwatch, on 7 nights per week between 8pm and 4am. The team will respond to neighbour noise as quickly as possible. They can be contacted by ringing a dedicated number and there is also an email address but it is not monitored at night.

We also have, in Jesmond, a dedicated late night police initiative, funded by the two Jesmond Wards, and the two Universities (Newcastle and Northumbria), which operates three nights per week from 8.00 p.m. to 4.00 a.m. (the nights are decided by the police according to their own data and that of Environmental Health) between September and June.

See: Newcastle City Council Noise Problems:

www.newcastle.gov.uk/environment/pollution/noise-problems,

Newcastle University Message to Residents:

ww.ncl.ac.uk/students/progress/student-resources/community/residents


We have continually asked for security from the University to patrol the streets in Ormskirk. We get no where with this. They are happy to patrol the accommodation ‘on site’ and any problems with students they kick them off campus, which leaves ‘us’ the residents dealing with them. My heart goes out to this lady. We are having to deal with exactly the same problems as she describes in her e-mail. Urinating on houses/flashing of parts/screaming/shouting in the early hours/foul language, etc., etc... . Residents lives are being made unbearable, and some of us have to go to work having had virtually no sleep.  This lady is correct in saying this is the worst year yet. We are working hard with the University/police and council to address problems, but it is a hard struggle.

 

Both Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam Universities have phone numbers you can ring through the night. The further you are from their own buildings, the more convincing they need that the problems are student-driven, and not just an excess of town high spirits (as distinct from gown). But the University accepts that the behaviour of students who are out and about DOES matter.  I have seen disciplinary cases, resulting in fines and suspensions, following bad cases.

See: Sheffield City Council Night Time Noise:

www.sheffield.gov.uk/environment/environmental-health/pollution/noise-pollution/noise-nuisance.

University of Sheffield Student Behaviour: Complaints  and concerns about student behaviour are taken very seriously by the University of Sheffield. The University uses an incident reporting system enabling security staff to monitor complaints and other issues relating to students.

See www.shef.ac.uk/communityrelations/complaints


NEWS FROM THE LEEDS HMO LOBBY:

‘HEADWAY’

Note: ‘Headway’ aims to give local residents news about the neighbourhoods in and around Headingley. The printed version comes out quarterly, but the latest news is published on an on-going basis on the Headingley Community website: www.headingley.org. I’ve downloaded a miscellany of articles from the ‘Local Developments’ and Neighbourhood News’ sections of the January 2012 issue to give an idea of what’s going on there. However, they’re no substitute for the real thing, so if you can, do try and take a look at the Headingly website.


University Developments

At either end of the A660 corridor, the University is proposing new development of two of its sites.

  • At St Mark’s Residence, on St Mark’s Street in Woodhouse, the demolition of the existing student accommodation and erection of new student accommodation, with 526 student bed spaces.
  • At Bodington Hall, on Otley Road, an outline application for residential development, including access and demolition of existing buildings.

In accordance with its Housing Strategy, the University has undertaken that no replacement accommodation for students will be within the Area of Housing Mix.

 

Looking Forward to a ‘Fruitful’ New Year

Headingley Community Orchard’s newest site – the Remembrance Orchard (by the St Chad’s war memorial) is now well under way.  We have planted most of the young trees – apples, pears, cherries, plums and a mulberry – and also hundreds of bulbs which will give a lovely show in the Spring. In January we will plant the remaining trees and also a beech hedge to run alongside the access road.  We will be on site from 10.00-12.30 on Sunday, 15 January if anyone would like to come and give us a hand. We are very pleased that Wade’s Charity, who own the site, have generously given us a grant to help pay for an information board for the site and some seating. We hope to have these in place in time for the formal opening of the new orchard which will take place on 22nd April. Further details of this event will follow nearer the time. Many thanks to all those who have supported us financially or who have given up their time to come and help with the work parties and to members of Far Headingley Village Society who have done fantastic work on the herbaceous border. ...

 

Farmers’ Market

... 9.00-12.30 on the second Saturday of each month, 14 January, 11 February and 10 March, in the Rose Garden, North Lane (opposite the old Community Centre).  Organic vegetables, smoothies, cheese, bread, free-range eggs, baked goods, jams, honey, fish, meat (farm reared and organic).  Locally produced food direct from local producers.  Over 20 stalls providing a rich variety of foods in season.  Guest stalls every month.

 

Café Scientifique

♦Monday 16 January, Prof. W. Gilks (University of Leeds), DNA: What it is and what we can do with it?

♦Monday 6 February, Dr. Janine Lamb (University of Manchester), Genes and autism spectrum condition 

♦Friday 9 March, Dr Peter Wilmshurst (University of Keele), The effects of the libel laws on science ... .

 

 

Pylos & Katakolon
NOTTINGHAM CITY COUNCIL:
Sustaining Balanced & Attractive Neighbourhoods

Apollo.png

Apollo (5th Century BC), West Pediment of the Temple of Zeus, Olympia: photograph courtesy of & ©Michael Lahanas, www.miahanas.de


 ‘All free governments are managed by the
combined wisdom and folly of the people.’

[James A. Garfield]

Note: I imagine the ‘roof over our heads’ has been of concern since the first of our ancestors climbed down from the sheltering canopy of their forest homes.

But, I’m being flippant about something which is fundamentally important to us as individuals, our families and their futures, and the quality of all our lives.

It’s central to the NAG’s involvement with a variety of players. Not least of these is Nottingham City Council, its housing and planning policies, and their implementation.

Last June I was sent an invitation to a City Council housing conference (since cancelled).

Its title, ‘Beyond Bricks and Mortar’, rang a bell with me and, after a root around, I came up with what had been the lead article in this magazine in 2006. I thought I’d start with that article as an introduction to a part of the magazine very much to do with the Council and with housing and planning issues, and the implementation of national toolkits (like the Housing Act 2004 and the more recent planning changes) in local policies and local strategies such as the City Council’s developing new Housing Strategy and its Land and Planning Policies (LAPP) Development Plan.

First, though, it’s important to make the point that the 2006 article focuses on ‘studentification’ and the conversion of ‘family homes’ into homes for students.

Students are not the only group in society for whom HMOs can and do provide homes now, and will continue to do in the future. However, many (if not all) of the observations made in the article about student-tenanted HMOs and their impact are equally applicable to all HMOs regardless of the social, economic or demographic groups which  may become their occupants.

[Editor]


HOUSES ARE MORE THAN...

Bricks  ♦ Mortar ♦ Money

INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR

DEVELOPERS & BUY-TO-LET/SECOND HOME SPECULATORS

 THEY ARE HOMES

BUILDING BLOCKS OF NEIGHBOURHOODS

CORNERSTONES OF COMMUNITIES

When it comes to problems surrounding ‘studentification’, and HMOs, most of what gets talked about, and shown, is the nuisance: litter, rubbish, persistent, usually low-level, often thoughtless, anti-social behaviour.

However, it is possible to clean up streets, get rid of litter, and curb the worst excesses of landlords and their tenants. But, none of this is going to make neighbourhoods capable of sustaining and renewing themselves.

That needs people who are prepared to put down roots, feel responsibility for, and to, their neighbours, and, ultimately, contribute to the long-term health and future of the greater community. In other words, people for whom houses are first and foremost homes. People who ‘... stay for the long haul ... .’

Yes, a house is probably the single largest financial transaction most of us are likely to contemplate. The fact that equity is likely to increase over time is part of the picture. But, not the whole picture.

Just as important is the neighbourhood: its location, its amenities, the people – its ‘ambiance’.

We invest in a house and make it a home. We also invest in the long-term viability of the neighbourhood. What happens to it, and to our neighbours, is important. Usually, when we move on the people who buy our home also buy into the neighbourhood and its future strength and vitality and fitness.

In our neighbourhoods this isn’t happening.

Speculators buying properties for conversion into HMOs purchase a commodity that will give the maximum return on their investment. They don’t even live here. So why expect them to care for the welfare of the neighbourhood?

Their tenants are young, highly mobile, totally absorbed in their own lifestyles. The houses they occupy are accommodation. Their homes are elsewhere. Their time as investors in homes and neighbourhoods is yet to come.

The danger is that council, universities, students all concentrate on cleaning up the environment ‘... bailing out the Titanic’s engine room with teaspoons ...’ and put aside the fact that there are: too many HMOs, too few families, not enough children, degraded amenities. They must not ignore the social and emotional misery of real people living in the host communities who are at risk of become aliens in the dying neighbourhoods that were once their own.

In our neighbourhoods families and others don’t want to, or are prevented from, making a commitment to the ‘long haul’. That has to change. How to do this is the real challenge – for council, universities, students [landlords] and, ultimately, for Government itself.

Rise to it and there is some hope that we will again have

Neighbourhoods were families want to live ... not leave!

 [Nottingham Action Group Magazine, Summer-Autumn, 2006]


 

FIRST PERSON’ THOUGHTS ON HOUSING & HOMES

Note: Following its revamp, the Nottingham Post has started to have guests who write ‘First Person’ articles on a range of topics, amongst them these two which appeared recently in a two-page spread devoted to housing needs and policies.

Councillor Jane Urquhart is the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Planning and Transport, and Matt Ashton is a Lecturer in Politics at Nottingham Trent University. Both have some interesting (and possibly controversial) thoughts on the subject. You may also find some of them rather familiar.

 

 

Immigrants, Students & Older People Are all Going To Need Homes in Which To Live

All councils are required by the government to set targets for providing new housing in their area – but why?

The city council, along with other local authorities in Greater Nottingham, will shortly be publishing plans for how the area should develop up until 2028, including the number of new homes thought to be required.

Some people may think there’s already enough housing in the area. Some may say we don’t need new housing when there are so many vacant houses and flats. But, while we need to continue to make efforts to reduce the number of empty properties, this doesn’t provide nearly enough homes.

There are a number of reasons why more housing is needed. There is of course an increasing population.

This plays a part but, even if there was no increase, and no net immigration from overseas, we would still need new housing.

The main reason is the ageing population. Projections show 36,000 more people aged 70-plus in Greater Nottingham by 2028, forming nearly one in six of the population, compared to one in nine now.

There’s also an increase in family break-ups and more people living alone, meaning the average household size is continuing to reduce, so we need more homes even if the population stays the same.

In addition, like most cities, Nottingham has experienced considerable immigration in recent years and rises in the number of students, both of which have contributed to its population increase.

And we need to plan for a time when people can once again afford mortgages or find a home to rent, and so form their own households.

This will include providing sufficient low-cost housing and meeting the needs of older people. New homes are needed and will, of course, provide local jobs during construction.

One of our priorities is to increase the number of larger homes with gardens suitable for families, which are in short supply in Nottingham.

We are committed to developing them sustainably through their location near good public transport, making them as energy efficient as possible and providing a broad range of housing types so they are accessible to all.

[Jane Urquhart, Nottingham Post, Thursday, 12 January, 2012]


 Care Needed To Avoid Return To Solutions Of Sink Estates

Housing policy is an emotive issue and one that has a lot of traction on the doorsteps of England.

Houses are more than just bricks and mortar – they’re our homes, where we grow up and then raise our own families.

Therefore, it’s all the more surprising that politicians have allowed us to get into the state we’re in.

I don’t think I’d shock anyone if I said that national housing policy in this country has been an absolute shambles for decades now; dominated either by short-termism or a willful desire to look the other way.

Much like the debt crisis, we’ve simply been putting off the problem until tomorrow and now tomorrow is just around the corner.

It’s not just a question of people not having anywhere to live either, although obviously that’s a priority.

The shortage helped create the housing boom and subsequent bust.

Other research has shown that it’s also a contributing factor behind a host of social problems in recent years and that healthy supplies of community housing are essential for creating social cohesion and stability.

It’s not just a case of simply speed-building more houses though.

We have to think very carefully about a range of factors.

For instance, where do we build them? Are they affordable? Are they properly supported by suitable infrastructure and amenities?

The badly-designed and built sink estates and concrete tower blocks of the 60’s and 70’s, and the legacy of social problems that followed, are what happened last time we rushed into building new homes without thinking it through.

Attempts to build on green-belt land or even reclassify it have met with stiff resistance across the country.

Everybody seems to agree that new houses have to be built but it’s just finding the right place to put them.

Brown-field sites are an obvious answer, along with rejuvenating existing housing. Equally, we need to look carefully at the issue of house prices, social housing and the second homes issue.

All of these are part of the bigger picture and attempting to deal with one but not the others is like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle using only one piece.

Obviously all of this is going to cost money and, in the current economic climate, that’s in short supply. But if anything’s worth spending money on, surely it’s this.

[Matt Ashton, Nottingham Post, Thursday, 12 January, 2012]



LICENSING OF HMOs

NEW CITY-WIDE HMO LICENSING POWERS INTRODUCED [in Oxford]

Oxford City Council’s groundbreaking new powers for licensing houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) come into force on Monday 24 January 2011.

The Council already licenses larger three storey HMOs that contain five or more tenants and currently over 600 HMO licences have been issued, but an Additional Licensing Scheme has been introduced that means every HMO in the city will need to obtain a licence.

Oxford City Council is the first council in the country to introduce a HMO licensing scheme that covers the whole of its area and that requires every HMO to be licensed.

The scheme is being introduced in two phases. From Monday 24 January, all three or more storey HMOs in Oxford will require a licence and so will all two storey HMOs that contain five or more tenants.

All remaining HMOs will require a licence from January next year. It is estimated that this will involve licensing approximately 4000 properties in total.

Councillor Joe McManners, Board Member for Housing, says: “I am delighted that we have finally got the powers to improve every HMO in Oxford.

“They have long been recognised as being a particular problem in the city, providing the worst homes and in many cases being poorly managed.

“The private rented sector is hugely important to the residents of Oxford, not just in terms of providing much needed accommodation, but also with the impact that it can have on local communities and licensing every HMO will help drive up standards for everyone.

“We have designed the scheme so that it is self financing and I’m pleased to be able to say in these tough times that the Council Taxpayer is not paying a penny towards it.

“We have also recognised the important role of good landlords by developing a charging regime that provides them with incentives and which clearly punishes the bad landlords.”

An Additional Licensing Scheme gives the Council increased powers to deal with HMOs. Every HMO will be inspected before a licence is issued and the Council are able to specify conditions on the licence that the licence holder must comply with or face legal action.

If problems occur with poor management or unsafe conditions, legal action can be taken which may result in the licence holder losing their licence and their ability to run HMOs.

Those landlords who have already been found guilty of relevant offences will not be able to hold a licence for an HMO and will have to find someone else, such as a reputable Letting Agent, to run their properties for them.

There will be an annual fee to license an HMO and the fees will be used to pay for the scheme so that it is self financing and there will be no cost to the taxpayer.

There will be additional charges for landlords who try and avoid licensing their properties and where complaints from tenants or residents result in extra visits by officers being necessary. There will be fee reductions for good landlords, including those who own multiple properties

[Oxford City Council Website, 24 January 2011]

NOTE: For more information on Oxford City Council’s approach to HMOs see:

 www.oxford.gov.uk/PageRender/decH/Houses_in_Multiple_Occupation_occw.htm

 

NOTTINGHAM CONSULTATION ON ADDITIONAL LICENSING FOR HMOs

Note: As reported in the Nottingham Post in October 2009 (and in the last issue of this magazine) the City Council announced a proposal to extend HMO licensing to parts of the city. The Council’s website also announced a consultation to run until mid-December 2009.

Additional licensing of HMOs has yet to happen. However, the Council’s website is now providing an alert that a new consultation will take place in 2012.

There is a school of thought that additional licensing will not produce the same impact on the quality of maintenance and management of HMOs as mandatory licensing has had, and no doubt, as in the past, there will be strong opposition from some quarters.

However, Oxford appears to be setting a useful example for Nottingham to follow. So, for further developments, watch the City Council’s website at: www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk.


The City Council is considering whether to implement Additional Licensing which would extend the Licensing provisions of HMOs, under the Housing Act 2004, parts 2 and 3. Nottingham City Council will be inviting you to take part in the consultation and let us know your views.

An HMO is a building or part of a building occupied as a main residence by more than one household. In summary, this means that properties occupied by individuals who are unrelated to one another and who share facilities, by definition, are houses in multiple occupation, including properties occupied by students.

HMOs are present across the whole of the city, with concentrations in certain wards. The density of housing and the level of occupation of HMOs can mean that if they are not effectively maintained and managed, they can be detrimental to both the occupiers and to the neighbourhood.

The Housing Act 2004 provides legal powers to the Local Authority, to address some housing and management conditions, including the mandatory licensing of certain types of HMOs of a prescribed description.  Under licensing, certain sets of standards and management arrangements are required to be met.  In Nottingham City fewer than 30% of HMOs are licensable under the mandatory scheme.  The overall effect is that there is a limited ability to control the non licensable HMOs and the impact they have on neighbourhoods and on their occupants.

Mandatory licensing has had a positive impact within neighbourhoods across the city, but there are still a number of sub standard and poorly managed non licensed HMOs.

The Housing Act allows for licensing powers to be extended to HMOs, which are currently excluded from the mandatory licensing scheme. The consultation is due to take place in 2012. Please monitor this page, which will be updated when all the information is available.

[Nottingham City Council Website, 28 December 2011]



HMOs & PLANNING CONTROLS:

NOTTINGHAM’S ARTICLE 4 DIRECTION

The first part of this magazine, having followed what from January 2010 at times seemed like a game of national planning legislation Snakes and Ladders, ended with the decision of Nottingham City Council’s Executive Board in February 2011 to accept the recommendation of its officers, and authorize them to take the first steps towards an Article 4 Direction to control the future numbers and locations of HMOs in the city.

Formal notification that the City Council had made a city-wide Article 4 relating to HMOs which, subject to confirmation by the Council, would come into force on 11 March 2011, came soon afterwards.

The notification also announced the start of a consultation on the Direction, to run from 11 March to 27 April. In the event, the consultation period was extended to 31 May 2010.

Just as the February report to the Council’s Executive Board had elicited strong and emotive headlines, so did the consultation on the Article 4 Direction. A Nottingham Post article on the 27 April carried the banner: ‘1,000 students oppose city council’s homes plan “discrimination”’, and the website of Nottingham University’s Students’ Union outlined the opposition of students at the university under the headline: ‘Student leader warns of outrage at “under the radar” changes to planning legislation’.

It may be that, just as the General Election campaign had in 2010, the impending local elections also added to the atmosphere that built up during this period. Certainly some very intemperate statements made at a hustings meeting in Wollaton Park (arranged by the Nottingham Post) did nothing to improve the objectivity of what developed into a divisive, highly polarizing, mis-informed and at times, very disagreeable, discourse, reverberations from which have yet to subside.

The consultation report made a number of observations beginning with:

‘The consultation prompted submissions from 258 separate respondents spanning a wide range of interests including property companies, letting agents, local and national landlords’ organisations/associations, MPs, Councillors, residents’ groups, action groups, property related organisations, the Universities, students, residents and public sector housing providers. An electronic petition was also submitted jointly by the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University Students’ Unions, with 3,819 entries. ... Out of 258 separate respondents, 188 object to the proposal, 65 support it, 4 provide other comments with a further respondent indicating support in principle. ...’

With that many responses, it is  possible to print only a selection of them. I don’t claim to be a disinterested spectator, but in making my selection I have sought (and probably failed) to achieve some degree of equanimity and balance between the differing viewpoints represented in the Council’s Report, which can be downloaded in its entirety from the Council’s website:

www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/ChttpHandler.ashx?id=31702&p=0.

It is probably as well for me to add the comment that I have omitted from this selection all responses that came from: national and local landlord associations and organizations; from national and local students’ unions; from politicians (i.e. MPs and councillors); from the universities; and from a number of other interested parties, including the NAG.

My final selection is a set of comments from a postgraduate student, picked not because they are supportive of the Direction, but because the observations made are ‘different’, and, simply, resonated with me.

[Editor]


CONSULTATION RESPONSES

LANDLORD

  • The introduction of the direction will be detrimental to the provision of shared housing in the City & will push already vulnerable tenants onto the ‘black market’ which you already appear to struggle to police.
  • Do not believe the directive will remove existing HMOs, if anything it will just discourage normal landlords to move further away from this already overly regulated market pushing further areas of the City into slum conditions. The belief that families will move back into these areas is severely misguided, & the effect of the direction in some cases could well be that properties will actually lose value & fall into disrepair.
  • The direction will prevent further investment in the private rented sector when more & more young people are struggling to buy their own property & the population of sharers is on the rise.
  • The private rented sector is becoming increasingly important to DSS tenants across the City, yet the Council are planning to reduce the choice available to them. This will inevitably force up prices, which doesn’t make any sense.
  • The City’s growing student population relies heavily on shared accommodation. Many businesses in turn rely on the students & post graduates that stay in the city for trade & for employment. Whilst the elderly may enjoy deserted streets outside of term time I believe the increased number of students helps to create a more vibrant & diverse city.
  • Forcing students into over-priced purpose built villages may tick a lot of Council boxes & please certain pressure groups that the Council funds but it does nothing to help prepare students for the real world & also removes from them the choice to share a house with friends which has been part of student life for generations.
  • Private landlords need flexibility to adapt property to suit changes in circumstance. The direction will remove the ability to switch between sharers & families without first obtaining planning permission.
  • What business is it of the Council to police who lives in privately rented properties as long as they are managed properly & the property meets all the safety criteria required?
  • Introducing the direction appears to be principally another Council job creation scheme with the only benefit being to Council employees rather than tenants or the tax-payer.

LANDLORD

  • It is a time consuming and costly exercise for the Council, landlords & ultimately tenants (who will end up paying for it through increased rent).
  • The Council is trying to socially engineer where people live & it should have no business to do so. It is an infringement of liberty.
  • The uncertainty of the planning process will deter new landlords, but Nottingham needs private landlords, because the Council is incapable of providing housing for everyone.
  • Central Government is trying to simplify planning requirements while the direction would complicate it. The direction will result in a drop in private sector investment in Nottingham.


STUDENT

  • The timing of the consultation period falls when a large majority of the people affected by these proposals (the students) are likely to be away from Nottingham. The consultation period should be extended to allow students to be fully consulted, & the Student’s Unions of both Nottingham universities to be fully involved in the process.
  • Measures dictating where any particular social, racial, financial, professional or other group are allowed or “encouraged” to live is unnecessary, undemocratic, unfair, discriminatory & unlawful. Students, as with any other group within society, have the right to live where & how they choose – it is not the place of the Council to force any group to live in a certain manner or location, as these proposals attempt to do.
  • Restricting students to a sole area or style of accommodation removes their freedom to choose the housing most appropriate for their needs & means, & will have the effect of forcing students to live as second-class citizens in over priced, low quality housing. These areas are also likely to become prime targets for burglaries & robberies, which will put additional strain on police resources if the areas are to be kept safe for the people who live in & near them.
  • The proposal will harm the business of the hundreds of private landlords who have made great investments in making their properties student-friendly. Far from being ideal family homes, many of these properties would be too expensive for a young couple to afford, & are far too large for the modern family, most having four, five or six separate bedrooms – making them ideal for a small group of students wishing to live within the community. Many of Nottingham’s landlords & estate agents depend on students for their livelihoods.
  • Nottingham’s large student population are an essential source of revenue for retailers & service providers. For small businesses & those in the service trade such as pubs & restaurants, students provide an essential source of relatively inexpensive, flexible & readily available labour, without which they would struggle to continue to trade at competitive prices.
  • Most university students work part-time jobs to help fund their studies, but if they were forced to live in certain areas, for many it would become impossible to manage both work & study, as they would no longer be able to choose a home well placed for both. This would mean a loss of an important labour resource, loss of tax revenue, & in the long run would make Nottingham a far less attractive city to prospective students.
  • Whilst students may have a reputation for being untidy, antisocial & undesirable, this vulgarised stereotype forgets that students are intelligent, capable individuals who are the next generation of well respected professions. Students are a diverse group of people. Mature students will often have a family to raise alongside their studies, & may have in fact been a part of the community for many years. Discrimination against students is discrimination against a vast section of society.
  • Given the chance, most students integrate well with the local community & give back in many ways, including through paid & voluntary work, & even just simply bringing life, vitality & money to an area.
  • The Council should bear in mind that as a City which boasts two large Universities within its boundaries, plus others including Loughborough in close proximity, & which draw a prestigious & international group of students to the City & surrounding areas, it would do well to treat its large student population with the respect it would any other group.

STUDENT

  • Areas with high student populations benefit hugely from having a world-class higher education institution.
  • Students have helped to make the City diverse & dynamic.
  • Students have had other positive impacts, such as through many volunteer initiatives including conservation projects, working with schools & working with elderly people.
  • Acknowledge the problems that the proposed plans are intending to deal with, but do not believe the solutions treat students fairly.
  • Families & students are both in need of affordable housing, & students will increasingly be in need of it when tuition fees increase from 2012. Purpose built student accommodation is nearly always more expensive than renting in the private sector.
  • Solution must treat students as adults, who are part of the community.
  • Segregation will worsen relationships with the rest of the community.

LONG-TERM RESIDENT

  • Welcomed the introduction of the April 2010 HMO planning legislation & were disappointed when this was overturned by the coalition Government.
  • Believe strongly that the Council must be able to use planning legislation to control the change of homes into HMOs as part of a wider housing policy.
  • Want locally elected representatives & local planners to respond effectively to local people’s concerns about the way in which the spread & concentration of HMOs are affecting their own, very local, neighbourhoods.
  • Vulnerable neighbourhoods like Lenton need protection from the problems caused by HMOs, especially when there are too many of them already.
  • The problem is not isolated to Lenton alone, & excessive HMO conversion has already blighted other parts of the City.
  • When too many HMOs saturate an area they contribute to the creation of fragmented neighbourhoods where buy-to-let activity threatens community support & cohesion. If we were to move to another part of the City we would want to be sure that the problems experienced in Lenton do not arise elsewhere in the future because of the indiscriminate conversion of family homes into HMOs.
  • Believe the direction has to be city-wide to make sure that the Council can respond quickly to the build up of HMOs without having to wait 12 months for the legislation to become effective, & to stop conversions to HMOs taking place in streets just outside an area with a direction in place.
  • Wish to see confirmation of the direction without any modifications to the present proposals.

LONG-TERM RESIDENT

  • The proposal demands widespread and enthusiastic support to which we are very keen to add our backing.
  • If this is the way to mitigate the willful reversal of the April 2010 planning legislation, the Council needs to be aware of the well evidenced views of local residents (& voters) & to resist the pleas of landlords & agents, who in many cases are not residents or voters & motivated purely by easy profits.
  • In our experience the problems in areas like Lenton arise not from students as individuals, but the density of HMOs, which reaches a point where a community fragments and ceases to function.
  • Affected areas begin to spread to adjoining suburbs, so a city-wide approach is essential.
  • Urge the confirmation of the unmodified direction with the least possible delay so that further deterioration is nipped in the bud.

POSTGRADUATE STUDENT

  • Some students may well ‘love’ Lenton & other neighbourhoods occupied by students, but anyone (students included) would be hard pressed to say that they love the substandard living accommodation & the lax attitudes of some landlords towards rental properties.
  • The Housing Act 2004 is basically unknown to students who occupy a property during term-time only, & enforcing housing law against poor landlords is extremely limited unless an individual takes court action or involves their already overburdened Council. Both avenues are limited with a transient population such as students, & therefore the cycle continues leaving neighbourhoods to degrade.
  • As a full-time postgraduate student living in Nottingham 12 months of the year, I resent the problems that student housing & HMO properties bring. Not all students want to live in substandard accommodation with limited tenancy assurance, not to mention the neighbourhood problems caused by properties that are neglected by landlords & unoccupied for several months of the year leading to increases in crime & poor maintenance, not to mention the rubbish, noise and wheelie bins.
  • These types of properties price Nottingham graduates out of the market for renting or buying a small property or flat when they enter the job market.

 


COUNCIL EXECUTIVE BOARD CONFIRMS ARTICLE 4 DIRECTION

Balanced neighbourhoods will be protected for future generations by controlling the over-concentration of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs)

The City Council has today (November 22nd) agreed to change planning arrangements to control the numbers and location of future HMOs.

A relaxation in planning rules by the Government in 2010 removed the need to obtain planning permission to change a "C3 Dwellinghouse" to a "C4 House in Multiple Occupation by three or more non-related people." More than 20 local authorities across the country, including five other Core Cities, have made article 4 directions to reinstate the need for planning permission to control and manage HMO conversions. This move has now also been approved by the City Council's Executive Board, which means that from 1 March 2012, planning permission will be needed to change the use of a C3 property to a C4 property. The Direction does not impact on existing properties that have already been converted for multiple occupation.

Councillor Jane Urquhart, Nottingham City Council's portfolio holder for Planning and Transportation, says: "Protecting diverse communities where people of all ages can live has enormous benefits for neighbourhoods and the people who live in them. The introduction of an Article 4 Direction will help us control further increases in HMO concentration. The council is not denying choice to anyone but simply ensuring that in neighbourhoods which have a healthy balance of family housing, student accommodation, shops and suitable community facilities, these characteristics are preserved.”

The Council is concerned that a high concentration of HMOs can lead to imbalanced and unsustainable communities. Some side effects of this are increased anti-social behaviour and noise, harm to the physical environment and streetscape and a loss of community facilities and services, in particular those which support the needs of families. Many HMOs are currently concentrated in areas of the city close to the universities. In these areas, many HMOs, though not all, are occupied by students. Many comments were received from students during the consultation about the proposals which helped inform the decision but some confusion has arisen about some aspects of the proposals.

Cllr Urquhart added: "We have considered all the objections raised. We are very proud of Nottingham's status as a top university city, and I hope students are clear that this decision does not affect existing HMOs and will not suddenly reduce the housing stock available for them as it will only apply to new proposals. There is inevitably a link between the areas which have a high concentration of HMOs and the neighbourhoods in which students live. We want students to continue to play a crucial role in shaping neighbourhoods and communities, but as part of their community and not in isolation.

"A city with diverse communities, with suitable housing for all citizens, gives people choice and flexibility in their decision making about where to live. A balanced neighbourhood is one which offers decent homes that meets the needs of all people while providing a safe and attractive environment in which to live. Introducing an Article 4 Directive will go some way to help achieve this."

[Nottingham City Council Website, 22 November 2011]


 

 OBSERVATIONS ON NOTTINGHAM’S ARTICLE 4 DIRECTION

Over a prolonged period now, there have been many comments made at a variety of meetings, in the press, in other media at all stages of the progress of Nottingham’s Article 4 Direction from February 2011.

These have not always contributed to a better understanding of this piece of planning legislation and its use.

The following observations may go some way towards: lproviding a better understanding of the Direction; lexplaining why the NAG has supported it and its city-wide implementation; lresponding to accusations made before, during and after the consultation, as well as more recently, that the measure is ‘discriminating’ against students and, by removing HMOs from the market place will force them to live in ‘low quality’ (presumably purpose-built) housing; ldrawing attention to the need for the City’s elected Members and their planning and housing strategists to develop policies that enable this tool to be used effectively.

The City of Nottingham needs to continue to develop housing strategies that will provide a sufficiently varied range of housing types and tenures to suit the future needs of an increasingly complex housing market, whilst at the same time ensuring that housing provision goes hand-in-hand with high standards of housing quality and management.

When it comes to HMOs, tools such as the provisions of the Housing Act 2004 (which include HMO licensing), and introduction of DASH (Decent and Safe Homes) standards as part of accreditation schemes provide a sound basis for achieving the latter.

However, until changes to planning legislation (Use Class Order) were enacted in April 2010 there was no tool to enable effective management of the development of HMOs, and especially to mitigate against the recognized adverse effects (environmental, social, economic) of concentrations of HMOs.

The October 2010 amendment of that legislation advocated the use by local authorities of Article 4 Directions to do so.

The following points are central to an appreciation of what the Article 4 Direction is, its uses, and its limitations:

lUntil recently HMOs were the only form of housing development that did not require planning permission to be sought. Use of the Article 4 Direction addresses this anomaly by requiring anyone who wishes to convert a property into an HMO to obtain permission to do so.

lIt is for the local planning authority to decide, based on local planning/housing policies, whether to grant or refuse that permission.

lThus, It is entirely incorrect to assume that refusal of planning permission for conversion to an HMO will be automatic.

lIt enables people living in the neighbourhood around the proposed HMO to have a say in the council’s decision-making process, just as they already do in many other planning developments. In other words, ‘localism’ in action.

lThe planning legislation from which the use of Article 4 Directions has emerged is not retrospective. Therefore, if a property is already an HMO it will remain so unless the owner chooses to change its use. It is incorrect to claim that owners of existing HMOs will need to get planning permission to continue renting out their properties as HMOs, and that their tenants will be forced to look for accommodation elsewhere.

lThe local planning authority has to be prepared to justify its decision to refuse planning permission from ‘family home’ to HMO at a Planning Inspectorate Hearing) and to incur substantial costs if an appeal against refusal is upheld.

lThe definition of HMO used in the Housing Act 2004 has been extended to planning legislation because it avoids unnecessary confusion, and because it has been demonstrated over an extended period to be an effective and workable definition.

lAn increasing number of local authorities across the country are following the same route as the City of Nottingham by introducing Article 4 Directions to manage HMO development. By no means all of these have identified student occupation of HMOs as the reason for seeking powers to do so. Rather, it is HMOs in general, and particularly concentrations of them and their effect on the balance, cohesion and sustainability of neighbourhoods, which is at issue, not the demographic, socio-economic or ethnic status of their tenants.

lIn Nottingham there is no shortage of HMOs, especially those on offer to students. Therefore, since the Article 4 Direction is not retrospective, this means that any reduction in the amount of HMO accommodation available to students and other groups of tenants will only happen if:

(a) Owners decide not to rent out to students which, bearing in mind the rental potential and guaranteed demand, is not likely;

(b) Students become more discerning about the quality of what they rent and how much rent they pay. This may well persuade some owners (especially the least desirable) to quit the student HMO market, which we suggest is something that students, universities, council, ‘professional’ landlords and agents, as well as established residents, support since it would help to drive up standards of maintenance and management, and so would be of considerable benefit to all parties involved;

(c) There is a substantial and sustained increase in the student population, akin to that in the 1990’s and early to mid-2000’s, unlikely in the present economic climate.

lTherefore, it is difficult to see how implementation of the Article 4 Direction in the City of Nottingham will have a detrimental, disproportionate or discriminatory impact on students and their choice of housing.

lNeither is it going to force them into purpose built accommodation since, for example:

(a) The rentals in purpose built accommodation and halls of residence are substantially higher than those in HMOs and likely to remain so;

(b) The simple fact is that there are not (and not likely to be in the foreseeable future) sufficient bed spaces available in purpose built accommodation and halls of residence to house more than at most the majority of first year students and a proportion of returners.

lFor a number of reasons, particularly to avoid liability for claims for compensation, there is usually a twelve-month period before the Article 4 Direction becomes effective. Conversion into an HMO can, and often does, take place very quickly indeed. Consequently, the character, balance, cohesion and sustainability of a neighbourhood can be affected well before an Article 4 Direction can be put in place. This inherent inflexibility of an Article 4, and the problems arising from it, are avoided if, as in this instance, the designation of the Direction is city-wide.

Nottingham’s Article 4 Direction is merely a tool, but one which, allied to sound and co-ordinated housing and planning policies, will go some considerable way towards ensuring that all residents of the City of Nottingham have the opportunity to choose the housing that best suits their requirements, whether to buy their homes or rent them, and whether to live in the city or move out of it.

Without the management potential of the Article 4 Direction and its utilization, those choices will be even more limited than they are now.

 


POSTSCRIPT: AS ONE DOOR CLOSES ANOTHER OPENS

Notice of an Article 4 Direction has now been given by 25 councils. Some, like Nottingham’s, are city-wide, whilst others are specific to selected neighbourhoods. As Richard mentioned in the HMO Lobby Report, the first to come into effect was Manchester’s city-wide Direction and the rest, if they have not done so already, will do so during 2012.

Just before Christmas 2011, Richard alerted members of the Lobby that from Leeds City Council planning officers he had learned that a national landlord association had written to Government (Department for Communities and Local Government) stating that their belief that 19 local authorities, in drafting their Article 4 Direction boundaries, had gone beyond what can be reasonably justified in terms of the sizes of the areas included in the Direction. They had asked the Secretary of State to cancel these directions.

Richard’s message also included the e-mail he’d sent in response to this information to Grant Shapps MP (Minister for Housing). As a member, the NAG has always endeavoured to provide whatever support it can to the Lobby; in this instance doubly so since Nottingham has been confirmed to be one of the 19 local authorities. To this end, an e-mail was sent on the 3 January, 2012 to

the Secretary of State (Eric Pickles MP) and to Grant Shapps), on behalf of the NAG, detailing why the NAG believes that a city-wide Article 4 Direction is an appropriate choice for Nottingham City Council to have made, pointing out that:

‘...in the present economic climate, Nottingham City Council’s officers would not have been prepared to recommend a measure that would involve a sizeable amount of extra resources without good reason. Equally, Nottingham City Council’s Executive Board would not have endorsed these recommendations had it not felt that this was the right choice to make for the City of Nottingham, both in terms of implementation of an Article 4 Direction, and, just as importantly, its geographical extent.

... you could say, with a good deal of justification, that this decision by Nottingham City Council, based on a local, Nottingham City-based assessment of need is very much an example of localism in action and clearly what the Minister (Mr. Shapps) advocated local authorities should do when, in October 2010, he removed the requirement for planning permission to be obtained for conversion from C3 to C4 dwellings. In the light of this, I would argue very strongly that for central government to now do as the landlord associations ask would be to go against the spirit of localism.

... whilst one can appreciate why, to use a Greater Nottingham example, a local authority such as Broxtowe Borough, which is made up of several district areas with separate, very distinct communities (e.g. the townships of Beeston and Eastwood) might not consider an authority-wide Article 4 Direction to be appropriate, this is not the case for Nottingham City Council. The City of Nottingham is a continuous urban area with very tightly drawn boundaries and in this instance a city-wide Article 4 Direction makes good sense.

Other National HMO Lobby groups have also written to CLG on this topic. Richard has had some correspondence from CLG, confirming that representations have been made to the Secretary of State, so it appears that at a national level the storm over HMOs and Article 4 Directions has yet to blow itself out, and much the same can be said for Nottingham where it seems likely that the validity of the City’s Direction will be challenged.

However, even without this potential setback, the  date when Nottingham’s Direction comes into operation (11 March) will not mark the end of the story. Rather, it will bring to a close the first part, whilst opening the door to the next, and potentially the most important, phase: how the Direction is used (and, of course, how it is enforced).

As Richard has mentioned, and as the NAG has continued to emphasize at all stages, the Direction is only a tool, providing the Council with the ability to control HMOs. In itself, it is not sufficient to justify refusal of planning permission. That requires the appropriate planning policies to be in place.

Also, for Nottingham as a whole to get the most overall benefit from the Direction, it is going to be important for the planning policies to form part of the ‘bigger picture’, i.e. to be allied to the City’s future housing strategy.

As you will see in the next section, following public consultation, the City Council is now reviewing and revising its housing and planning strategies.

The NAG has made submissions to both consultations. These are lengthy documents which will be available for download from the NAG website once it has been updated. In the meantime, if you are interested in seeing copies, please contact the NAG: Tel 07762-525-625; E-mail contact@nottinghamaction.org.uk.

[Editor]



AND NOW ... THE REST OF THE NEWS

HOUSING

Motion on Private Rented Sector Housing in Nottingham Presented to the December Meeting of Nottingham City Council

Given the increasing pressure on all housing sectors in Nottingham and the important role that the Private Rented Sector (PRS) plays in housing provision in the city, it is all the more important that the City Council supports PRS to deliver a good service but also helps tenants to tackle poor landlords. The Council will therefore:

•Establish a Nottingham City wide kitemark for standards in private rented accommodation to expand the coverage of landlord accreditation which recognises existing work carried out through Unipol and other schemes;

•Create and promote a register of landlords and properties that meet this standard;

•Respond to complaints from citizens and take appropriate action including enforcement to protect citizen health, safety and well being;

•Increase and improve engagement with PRS landlords through the Housing Strategic Partnership and the Landlord Liaison Panel.’

[Councillor Alex Ball, Executive Assistant, Housing, Regeneration & Community Sector, November, 2011]


HOUSING NOTTINGHAM PLAN

Nottingham’s Housing Strategic Partnership (HSP) is developing a new housing strategy for the city known as the ‘Housing Nottingham Plan’.

Over the summer and autumn months citizens have helped us by completing a quick survey. The results of the survey will help us to develop our new plan. We wish to express our thanks to all those who participated in the survey and congratulations to the winners of the free prize draws.

We are expecting the draft of the new Housing Nottingham Plan to be ready by early spring 2012.

We will use this web page to keep citizens updated on the progress.

[Nottingham City Council Website, 12 December, 2011]


 LAND & PLANNING POLICIES

This Development Plan Document combines two documents that were formerly known as ‘Site Specific Land Allocations and Policies DPD’ and ‘Generic Development Control Policies DPD’.


Purpose:

Nottingham City Council is developing a new Local Plan, called the ‘Land Planning `policies Development Plan Document’, which will help shape new development in the City over the coming years. This is separate from the Core Strategy.

The purpose of the plan is to make sure that new development meets the needs of Nottingham’s citizens, while protecting what is best about the City.


Current Stage:

The first stage in the production of the plan is informal and is called the ‘Issues and Options’. This document underwent consultation from the 26 September 2011 until the 21 November 2011.

The full document can be downloaded  from ... [the Nottingham City Council website – as can the separate sections of the document: Editor’s Note]

[Nottingham City Council Website, 11 November, 2011]


 PRIVATE RENTED SECTOR COUNCIL TAX

Deputy Claims City is Being Punished Over its Student Population

Nottingham is being penalised by the Government for having a student population, according to the city council's deputy leader.

Councils receive money from the Government to compensate for the fact that students do not pay council tax.

And Graham Chapman says this funding has been slashed by 27 per cent for 2012/13.

He said the cut will cost the council £3.477m a year.

Mr Chapman said: "The Government used to compensate us £1,415 per student property, and from that it's going down to £1,035.

"It means we will lose £3.477m. That will be part of £24m cuts we planned already.”

The figure is based on the 2012/2013 formula grant, Government money given to councils based on the needs of their area and population.

This grant is worked out according to factors like how much council tax is paid and how wealthy its population is.

A Government spokesman disputed the council's figures, saying the formula grant is not ring fenced and it is up to the council how much they choose to spend on each area.

The spokesman said: "It is an un-ring-fenced block grant which means local authorities are free to use it for any service.

"For this reason, and due to the method of calculating formula grant, it is not possible to say how much grant has been provided for any particular service, including any amount for student council tax exemption.”

Mr Chapman said: "It's another way of hitting cities and not rural shires. It's definitely not the fault of the students but cities are the motors of the economy, so this will hurt growth.”

Alex Corck-Adelman, president of the University of Nottingham Students' Union, said: "We are confused as to how Nottingham City Council is claiming to know such specific figures, given that after numerous requests, we are yet to receive a satisfactory explanation of how their estimations are calculated.

"We understand and appreciate that the council, as with most organisations around the country, is facing financial difficulties and funding cuts. This, however, should not be used to target students as a means of raising funds.”

Nottingham Trent University Students’ Union said: “It is regrettable that the Government’s decision is going to affect local spending cuts.

“But students will continue to be a significant asset to the city. Each year students bring millions in revenue and benefits to the local community.”

[Nottingham PostTuesday, 22 November, 2011]



Corfu
NOTTINGHAM ACTION GROUP ON HMOs:
Report by the Committee to the Membership of the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs

NOVEMBER 2011

Corfu.png


Pontikonisi & Vlacheraina Monastery, Corfu: photograph courtesy of & ©Stefanos Kopzanis


 ‘No man is an island, entire of itself ...’

[John Donne]


Background

In the nearly eight years since the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs (NAG) was formally constituted, its work has concentrated in three, often overlapping, areas: National (as a member of the National HMO Lobby); Nottingham (as the group representing the interests of Nottingham residents who live in areas where HMOs are of concern); Neighbourhood (working to improve the quality of the environment for residents and HMO tenants living in areas where there are HMOs).

 

Management Structure

The business of the NAG is conducted by an elected committee consisting of Chair, Secretary and Treasurer plus no more than three other members with full voting rights. However, from time to time, the committee does co-opt individual members whose special interests and/or expertise can make a valuable contribution to its work. Co-opted members do not have voting rights.

The NAG’s membership is drawn from residents living in neighbourhoods which are predominantly within the City, although there are also members in West Bridgford and Beeston. These neighbourhoods, and the experiences and expectations of our members living in them, are diverse and sometimes difficult to reconcile.

However, to try and ensure that the NAG does the best it can to represent everyone’s views and ideas, the Group now has an Executive. This is made up of the Committee and a variable number of other members (currently around 12) whose homes are in a wider range of neighbourhoods than those of Committee members, who want to contribute their knowledge and skills to the work of the NAG, but who are not able to take up a position on the Committee. The structure of the Executive is informal: members usually join because they have been suggested to the Committee by other members, or because they have expressed an interest in joining.

The majority of the work of the Committee and the Executive is carried on via e-mail and telephone. However, as and when necessary, the Committee does meet in person, and has done so on several occasions over the period of this report (June 2009 to November 2011). On occasion, the Committee has also met with representatives of outside bodies, though, by and large, such meetings have been held at Executive, rather than Committee level. For example the Committee recently met with City Councillors whose portfolio responsibilities are relevant to the NAG’s work (e.g. Housing, Planning, Community), while examples of meetings at Executive level include a meeting with Nottingham University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for community affairs in February 2010 to prepare the ground for a NAG open meeting with representatives from both universities; a meeting in August 2011 with City Council Housing officers in advance of the NAG’s submission to the Nottingham City Housing Strategy consultation; and a meeting with representatives from Nottingham Trent University scheduled for January 2012.

 

Meetings

The Group has continued to hold regular meetings. As you will see from the list below, the majority of them have been open to everyone. However, from time to time it has been felt appropriate to hold meetings for NAG members only in order to facilitate free and frank discussion on a variety of issues.

 •February 2010: Open meeting with Parliamentary candidates

•March 2010: Open meeting with Nottingham University & Nottingham Trent University

•April 2010: Open Joint Unipol-NAG (U-NAG) meeting

•May 2010: Open meeting with City Council officers from the Neighbourhood Services Team

•June 2010: Open meeting with City Council officers from the HMO & Environmental Services team

•July 2010: Open meeting on HMOs and Planning  Legislation with City Council Planning officers

•September 2010: Open meeting with Nottingham University representatives

•October 2010: NAG Executive meeting

•November 2010: Open meeting with City Council enforcement officers

•December 2010: Members & guests Christmas ‘Bring and Share’ meeting

•January 2011: Open meeting with Dr. Darren Smith

•February 2011: Open meeting on control of letting boards

•March 2011: NAG Executive meeting

•April 2011: Closed NAG members meeting

•May 2011: Open Joint Unipol-NAG (U-NAG) meeting

•June 2011: NAG Executive meeting

•August  2011: NAG Executive meeting

•September 2011: Open Joint Unipol-NAG (U-NAG) meeting

•October 2011: Open meeting with City Council Planning officers

•November 2011: Closed NAG Business meeting

•December 2011: Members & guests Christmas ‘Bring and Share’ meeting

 This pattern is set to continue in 2012 with meetings planned for:

 •January 2012: NAG Executive meeting with Nottingham Trent representatives

•February 2012: Open meeting with City Council enforcement team officers

•April 2012: Open Joint Unipol-NAG (U-NAG) meeting

•May or June 2012: Open meeting with City Council Planning officers.

In addition, NAG members have continued to take part in meetings, formal (e.g. Nottingham City Council’s Student Co-ordination & Delivery Group) and informal (e.g. with Councillors and Council officers from a variety of different sections of Nottingham City Council, Nottingham Trent University representatives, representatives from the students’ unions of both universities, Unipol officers).

 

Consultations

The NAG submitted comments to a number of consultations in the period 2009-2011, the most significant ones being:

•July 2009: Submission to Central Government’s national consultation on proposed changes to the planning system.

•August 2009: Submission to Nottingham City Council: comments on the Core Strategy

•April 2010: Submission to Nottingham City Council: comments on the Core Strategy Option

•July 2010: Submission to Central Government: revised proposals for changes to the planning system

•April 2011: Submission to Nottingham City Council:   comments on the proposed Article 4 Direction

•April 2011: Submission to Nottingham City Council: comments on proposals to control letting boards

•August 2011: Submission to Central Government: comments on Nottingham City Council application for             Regulation 7 Direction to control letting boards

•October 2011: Submission to Nottingham City Council: comments on proposed new Housing Strategy

•November 2011: Submission to Nottingham City Council: comments on the Land and Planning Policies (LAPP) DPD Issues and Options consultation

 

Communication

E-mail is the main method of communication between members of the Committee and the Executive, and with members of the National HMO Lobby, local MPs, Nottingham City Council Councillors and Council officers, representatives from the two universities and the students’ unions. However, a substantial number of the Group’s members cannot be contacted in this way. So, the membership as a whole continues to receive regular letters about forthcoming meetings and information about local and national developments connected to HMOs, for example consultations and how they can make their personal views known, as well as other matters of general interest that may be useful for them to be aware of.

The last issue of the Group’s magazine was published in January 2010. The next issue has been delayed, largely because of an increasing amount of other NAG-related commitments which have eaten into the time available for collection of items, collation, editing and final formatting of the document prior to printing. However, the first part of the next issue is almost completed and it is hoped it will be ready to go to the printers before the end of this year. The second part still requires some up-dating, especially in view of recent developments such as the Article 4 Direction, and may not be ready for publication until early in 2012. The format of the last issue was a departure from that of previous issues, but seems to have been favourably received by most readers.

The NAG website is somewhat dated in appearance and content. A revamp has started and, provided sufficient resources (i.e. time and effort) are available, it should be fully up-to-date in early 2012. However, even in its present state it continues to bring in enquiries from people living in Nottingham and elsewhere in the country who are experiencing problems with HMOs, as well as enquiries from students at Nottingham’s two universities and elsewhere seeking information and interviews as part of their degree course work. The website also provides the Group with a non-confidential/private e-mail address.

 

Statement of Accounts

The Group’s accounts for the period 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2010 have been examined. They are available for inspection provided 21 days notice is given to the Treasurer and/or the Chair. Inspection of the current year’s accounts (January 2011 to 23 November 2011) is also possible, again with the 21 days notice to the Treasurer and/or Chair.

The current balance of the account is £2774.91, of which £2473.61 is Nottingham City Council funding and £301.30 is funds obtained from donations, raffles, etc. Excluding the cost of printing and distribution of the magazine, the major cost continues to be printing and mailing of letters and other information, along with room hire.

Costs associated with the provision at meetings of light refreshments, cakes, biscuits, etc. have been borne by individual members, as have been any costs associated with travel to attend meetings. No payments have been made to cover the cost of day-to-day internet provision, and management of the Group’s finances has concentrated on ‘good housekeeping’.

The Committee will need to seek new funding as a matter of urgency if the Group’s work is to continue. Funding for the voluntary sector is now under considerable pressure and it is possible that future funding will be restricted, or indeed will not become available. The Group must be prepared for these eventualities.

 

National HMO Lobby

Although the main thrust of the NAG’s work is now focused on local (Nottingham) issues, the Group continues to be part of the National HMO Lobby, receiving information from other, similar organizations in the Lobby and, whenever appropriate, sharing this with relevant Ward Councillors and Council officers. Information from Nottingham is also shared with the Lobby. In fact the Lobby continues to be an important resource for the NAG and for other similar groups in towns and cities across the country.

 

Future Work

National: The NAG will continue to liaise with other National HMO Lobby members, share information, and provide support and advice whenever called upon to do so.

Nottingham: The Committee would like to welcome Mark Simmonds, who was appointed by Nottingham Trent University earlier this year as its first Community Liaison Officer. This is a positive and much needed development. The Group continues to develop a useful working relationship with Nottingham Trent University, as evidenced by the meeting of the Executive with Nottingham Trent representatives in November 2010, and the one due to take place in January next year. However, it has failed to re-establish the progressive relationship it had until two or three years ago with Nottingham University.

As and when circumstances have allowed, the Group has worked with individual students and with the students’ unions to improve the quality and management of student accommodation. It has to be added that relationships with the students’ unions have been very much strained by the Article 4 Direction and the debate around it.

It is to be hoped that, having established a formal association with Unipol (U-NAG), this relationship will continue to be mutually beneficial, though a good deal of development work is need if it is to achieve its full potential.

Special reference should be made to the degree to which the Group and Unipol have worked together in setting up the voluntary code of practice for letting boards, in monitoring it, and, latterly, in moving forward to a code that can be legally enforced by the City Council.

The City Council is continuing to restructure its departments. Unfortunately, this process has had a detrimental impact on the way in which the NAG has been able to continue to work with the Student Strategy Manager in particular, and also with other officers in Environmental Services, Waste Management, Neighbourhood Services and City Services.

Officers whom the NAG had come to respect and to work closely with have left, and this has meant that effort is having to be directed towards establishing new working relationships.

This is not always proving to be very easy. Often the changes have also meant that what the NAG is, who it represents, and what it does have had to be explained again and again to new contacts.

The future of the Student Strategy Manager post is unclear at this time. As the only such post in the country, it was an innovative appointment, supported by the NAG, which reflected the City’s often equally innovative approaches to tackling issues related to HMOs.

It would be a backward step indeed if this valuable post was to be allowed to lapse, or was not used to its full potential.

Neighbourhood: The last report in June 2009 concluded that ‘Improvements in the environments of our neighbourhoods have occurred, but they are patchy, sporadic and inconsistent. They are expensive in terms of manpower and finances, and we continue to be faced with a declining permanent resident population.’

The same comments are still pertinent. Although new members continue to join and our mailing lists remain surprisingly buoyant, it is a sad fact that there is a steady haemorrhage of familiar names and faces at meetings as people leave to live elsewhere, become dispirited and disillusioned and decide to ‘put up with things’, or, even more sadly, die.

However, the Group continues to bring together residents from different parts of Nottingham.

It continues to focus the attention of the Council, the universities, students’ unions and landlords on the issues that are important to our members.

It continues to provide a forum where everyone: residents, Councillors, Council officers, university representatives, representatives from the students’ unions, students, owner-occupiers, tenants ... can, if they wish, meet, discuss issues and actions, and share and exchange information and ideas.

When planning applications or planning appeals have come within the overall remit of the NAG, support has been given to residents and councillors. On a number of occasions the Committee has written in a formal capacity to oppose these applications and appeals

Through its meetings, it continues to support ‘neighbourhood spirit’ by fostering links between residents in different parts of our neighbourhoods, as evidenced by the successful ‘Bring and Share’ Evening last Christmas. Another ‘Bring and Share’ Evening is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, 7 December 2011.

If at all possible, it is hoped that a similar event, or events, can take place in 2012.

With confirmation of the Article 4 Direction on HMOs, it is to be expected that a good deal of effort in 2012 will centre around how the Direction is going to be used, and its impact on individual residents as well as neighbourhoods.

The NAG Committee and Executive had already begun to explore this aspect of HMO control with Councillors, Council officers and NAGgers in 2010 when the changes in national planning legislation first came into effect. Of course, this was put on hold when the legislation changed again, and during the period until now when it was by no means certain that Nottingham City Council would indeed adopt the Direction.

However, the effort put in then has not been wasted. It will provide a useful starting point for what are likely to be complex and sensitive discussions with difficult decisions to be made at the end of them.

[Committee of the Nottingham Action Group on HMOs, Tuesday, 22 November 2011]


 

OUR NEIGHBOURHOODS: A VISION FOR THE FUTURE

The student population of the city is a driver, though not the only one, behind the conversion of traditional housing, previously occupied by families, into HMOs: a significant contribution to the increasing imbalance and loss of social capital in so many of our neighbourhoods.

The extent to which this change has continued is illustrated by data showing that in the period 2006/2007 to 2010/2011 the number of students seeking accommodation in the city increased from 33,9767 to 40,615, whilst the number of purpose-built bed spaces only rose from 13,882 to 15,218, leading to an additional demand of 5,312 bed spaces in private rented flats or houses.

However, as intimated, students are by no means the only demographic or socio-economic group driving the creation of HMOs (shared houses), and their impact on the housing market should not be looked at in isolation.

The HMO market is already a source of accommodation for a variety of different groups, e.g. so-called ‘young’ professionals (graduate and non-graduate), migrant workers, asylum seekers.

It can only be supposed (and projections support this) that proposed changes in housing benefit legislation, high property prices and difficulties in obtaining mortgages (which mean that more and more young people find themselves unable to get a foot on the housing ladder until at least their mid-thirties) will increase the demand for rented accommodation, HMOs in particular.

Neither should it be assumed that in Nottingham, where we have two very successful universities, increases in tuition fees will result in reduced student intake, and reduced demand for off-campus homes.

Of late, there has been a developing trend for some landlords and agents to talk about ‘professionals, ‘medics’ and ‘nurses’ living in HMOs and to intimate that somehow the issues around HMOs are confined to those properties occupied by student. Because of the similarities in profile, especially demographic, and the short-term nature of the tenancies, though very different in some ways from student tenants and the student market, HMOs catering for these groups can (and local experience supports this) and do have a similar impact on the neighbourhoods around them.

Therefore, planning and housing policies concerning HMOs should be focused on HMOs as a form of tenure, regardless of the nature of the occupants.

The consultation stage of Nottingham’s draft housing strategy (the Housing Nottingham Plan) highlighted the importance of ensuring that the Council (as the authority with direct responsibility for housing and planning) delivers housing choices to a range of different groups. This is a laudable ambition and not one that the NAG would want to challenge.

Indeed a good part of the NAG’s effort in responding to the Council’s consultations on housing and planning matters has been directed towards suggesting ways in which these ambitions can be achieved through appropriate utilization of existing housing, which may include, in addition to newly-built housing:

  • return to family use of HMOs,
  • adapting existing residential housing which is not likely to meet the requirements of modern families to provide a choice of accommodation for individuals or groups not necessarily seeking family-type housing,
  • adapting and recommissioning unwanted commercial and industrial buildings to provide cluster flats and/or apartments.

However, there is a challenge which needs to be made here on behalf of the residents in our neighbourhoods who, by and large, feel that their choices are increasingly less important than those of the owners and users of HMOs, and that the impact that HMOs have on the balance and vitality of the neighbourhoods in which they live is increasingly excluding them and their families from enjoying the very things that made them choose to live where they do.

No doubt the reasons they chose to live in these neighbourhoods are many and varied, but there is a common thread that runs through all of them, encapsulated in their own words in back issues of the magazine. Some of these are re-printed here:

  • ‘... a pleasant place to live’;
  • ‘... a beautiful, leafy quiet neighbourhood so near the city centre’;
  • ... a pleasant, tree-lined road … with multi-racial and multi-aged family units with all the usual amenities and facilities in place’;
  • ‘What we really wanted was a house we could call home, not too far out of the city and within our limited budget’;
  • ‘... we had been searching for a traditional, well-built family house. It was wonderful when we secured our property in what, then, was a residential oasis. A good place to live’;
  • ‘The surrounding properties were all family dwellings. Some of the families had children of much the same age as our own. Friendships formed very quickly and it was indeed very enjoyable to live here’;
  • ‘There was a strong feeling of community and the neighbourhood  had a pleasant ambiance’;
  • ‘Properties were well maintained, gardens well cared for and well stocked and it felt good to be living here’;
  • ‘She always had time for a gossip over the hedge or a cup of tea … her beautiful garden meant everything to her and was always kept immaculate. The same applied to the couple on the other side of me – quiet people, very private, but with a deep love of their garden;’
  • ‘... this neighbourhood has traditionally attracted professional people working in the city. Although it is close to main roads, our cul-de-sac has a quiet, residential setting’;
  • ‘This area was once very pleasant, suitable for small families, children and disabled people’;
  • ‘I am told that [this] was once an area full of residents who looked out for each other. The ones that remain or who have recently moved out have given me a taste of that’.

[Based on extracts from NAG submissions made in 2011 to consultations on Nottingham’s Housing Strategy 2012-2015 & the LAPP DPD]




 

Dubrovnik
NEIGHBOURHOOD PERSPECTIVES:
The Letting Board Jungle

Old_Harbour_Dubrovnik.png


The Old Harbour, Dubrovnik, Croatia, October 2011: Photograph courtesy of & ©J.R. Fletcher

 
 ‘Don’t buy the house. Buy the neighbourhood.’
 

[Old Russian Proverb]

Note: Editing an issue of this magazine is rather like fitting together the pieces of a jigsaw, and can be equally frustrating. Some items drop into place without any real effort. With others it takes a little more time to work out where they belong. ‘The Letting Board Jungle’ is one such. But, after much dithering, I finally decided that, although Unipol had taken the lead in drafting the original voluntary code; had collated the evidence; and had commissioned the final report, this update belongs under the ‘Neighbourhood Perspectives’ banner. After all, if this (to date unique) collaboration between council, universities, students’ unions, Unipol and the NAG isn’t about our neighbourhoods, then what is it about?

However, it’s not with any of the ‘insiders’ that I start, but rather with an ‘outsider’s’ view: a letter published in the Nottingham Post in which the author commented on the number of letting boards he had observed in Lenton and other areas with concentrations of HMOs. It is reproduced here alongside a response sent to the Post on behalf of the NAG.


IS IT LENTON OR TO-LET ON?

On Thursday, January 13, I had a walk through several streets of Radford and Lenton and I was amazed and disappointed by the vast number of “To Let to Students” signs outside houses.

Some roads of maybe 100 houses had as many as 20 signs up.

My reaction is that Lenton should be more accurately renamed as To-Let-on.

In the Post there was an article where the city council said they were open for business on empty homes and there was central Government funding which could be applied for to prevent neighbourhoods being blighted from excessive empty houses (“City ‘open for business’ on homes”, Post, January 14).

Let us hope all responsible bodies for housing in Lenton work together in future to provide rental accommodation for a wider group than just students, who obviously do not want, or are unable to rent rooms.

Government money may be available to help this process and student letting businesses can at least get rental income and there could be fewer people on council house waiting lists.

Please stop Lenton becoming “To Let on”.

[George Reynolds, Brookland Drive, Chilwell, Nottingham Post, Friday, 21 January 2011]


 

LETTING BOARDS ENHANCE LENTON

My thanks to Mr. Reynolds for his comments about the letting boards currently ‘enhancing’ neighbourhoods in Lenton and elsewhere with HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) to rent to students.

However, the link he makes with empty homes and council house waiting lists is erroneous. These properties are neither empty nor unwanted. They are amongst the most expensive (per rentable space) and sought after houses in the City and will not become vacant until their present student tenants move out, most likely in July.

In fact, it’s probably only three months since these tenants first moved in. What Mr. Reynolds has observed is the feeding frenzy generated by businesses vying with one another to sign up next October’s new student tenants.

Recent research shows the majority of Nottingham’s students use the internet to find their accommodation. So,  the companies involved are simply using letting boards as a cheap way of promoting their businesses rather than the properties themselves.

These eyesores degrade our streets and send out all the wrong messages. They discourage families from living in our neighbourhoods, encourage criminals who see student houses as soft and lucrative targets, and give students little sense of belonging to the neighbourhood or to Nottingham.

This is why so many local people, students included, are calling for changes to local planning regulations which have already resolved this problem in places like Leeds and Loughborough.

Permission to enact the same changes here would herald the end of Nottingham’s forest of letting boards and the blight they inflict.

I live in Lenton and anything that would encourage families to rent or to buy homes here and other areas with similar problems would be most welcome.

I can assure Mr. Reynolds that responsible bodies are working on this. But, as long as landlords demand high rents and students continue to be willing to pay them, it’s going to be a long and uphill struggle to achieve this goal.

[Nottingham Action Group on HMOs, Lenton, Nottingham, Nottingham PostSaturday 5 February 2011]


  

OPEN MEETING ON CONTROL OF ‘TO LET’ BOARDS

I’ve already alluded to the fact that the campaign to control letting boards is one of those sadly too infrequent instances when there is almost total unanimity between the different ‘partners’. It is supported by local MPs, Ward Councillors, student representatives, the two universities, Unipol and established residents.

To recap: in 2008 Unipol responded to requests from residents, the Council, the two universities and students and the students’ unions to undertake a voluntary scheme to control the use of letting boards.

After full public consultation (which included landlords and agents), a voluntary scheme designed to control the impact of lettings boards on neighbourhoods and their influence on when students begin house hunting came into effect on the 1 July 2009.

Full details of the scheme were published in a previous issue of this magazine [Spring 2009, pp5-8], but as it is quite some time since then, a brief summary of the salient points may be useful before going on to try and answer the question:

Where do we go from here?

 

The Problem

To Let boards are:

  • —continuing to increase in usage
  • —getting larger
  • — used mainly to market managing agents and their ‘brand’ rather than individual properties
  • —up all year
  • —unsightly
  • —create an air of transience in the area
  • —deter owner occupation
  • —label rental properties for thieves
  • —damage properties and landscaping

 The Voluntary Code

The voluntary code for control of letting boards, jointly sponsored by Unipol, Nottingham City Council and the NAG built on experience gained in similar circumstances in Leeds and elsewhere and sought to:

  • —Restrict the size and layout of any boards to 34 cm by 48 cm with a white background
  • —Allow text and logos provided non-fluorescent colours were used
  • —Permit one logo on each board, limited in size to no more than one-third of the overall size of the board
  • —Limit the number of letting boards to one per property
  • —Ensure that letting boards were fixed flat to the building
  • —Ensure that boards were removed within 14 days of letting
  • —Ensure no boards were to be displayed between 1 October and 31 December

As those NAG members who took part will know, from then until April 2010 compliance with the scheme, and with a similar one brought out subsequently by EMPO (East Midlands Property Owners) was extensively monitored

The monitoring data was collated by Unipol’s Nottingham office. Unipol then commissioned an independent consultant to analyze it and prepare a report. This was published in August 2010.

Not unexpectedly, it concluded that both schemes had failed, and also that there was strong support for pursuing the introduction of a statutory scheme.

That support for a statutory scheme is as strong as ever was amply exhibited at the NAG open meeting held on Wednesday, 23 February 2011where residents, Ward Councillors, Council officers, a representative from Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham University’s Students’ Union Community and Accommodation officer and the MP for the Nottingham South constituency all spoke about the need to implement statutory controls on the use of letting boards.

Here’s what Teddy Smith (Nottingham University Students’ Union Community & Accommodation officer, 2010-2011) wrote on the subject.

 

Letting Boards – Why They Matter

In these days of mobile technology (when seemingly your every wish is but the push of a button away), it seems strange that when it comes to student accommodation many landlords still think the best way to contact net savvy students is to stick a board outside their house. Sure, if you opt to search your next property online you potentially miss the novelty of tramping round Nottingham streets in the middle of winter. But there are other reasons why students should be wary of using letting boards to lead their search for accommodation … .

Areas with high numbers of student properties have, in the past, been notorious for their high crime levels, none more so than Lenton. In the past few years, thanks to the work of both universities, students’ unions, the police and the city council, crime figures have gone down. Burglary though, still remains a problem and one contributory factor is letting boards. As well as advertising houses to students, the boards also provide an easy way for burglars to identify, without even walking down a street, which properties are likely to be home to a ready supply of laptops, iPods and BlackBerries.

The boards also do little to enhance areas visually. Designed to stand out from the competition these colourful boards can make an otherwise pleasant street look quite shabby. Not great if you are a student living in Nottingham through term time, but even worse if you are a permanent resident.

The University of Nottingham’s Students’ Union is currently working with the two universities, local residents and Unipol in support of a Council led scheme that will effectively control the use of letting boards. The scheme will require all boards in designated areas to be taken down during the first few months of the academic year when many students are living for the first time in their own houses and aren’t as security conscious as more ‘experienced’ students. It will also require boards to be flush fitting against the property and limit their size. Hopefully the introduction of such a scheme will show that students also care about the environment they live in and will help make Nottingham a safer and happier place to live for both students and permanent residents alike.

[Teddy Smith, Nottingham University Students’ Union, Article in Housing, Unipol Tabloid, April 2011]


 Arguments for a Statutory Scheme

Letting boards are subject to deemed consent, i.e. they do not need planning permission. They fall within Class 3A: the display of boards advertising that the residential land or premises on which they are fixed is for sale or to let. However, they are subject to certain restrictions, e.g.

  • A single board or two joined boards may be displayed—
  • The board must refer to the availability of the property to which it is attached
  • —It must be no more than 0.5 m2 in area (0.6 m2 if two linked boards are used)
  • —The advert must be removed within 14 days of the tenancy starting
  • —It may not project more than 1 m from the building to which it is fixed
  • —Illumination is not permitted

Paradoxically, one of the strong arguments for a statutory scheme to control letting boards is the failure on the part of landlords and agents to comply with current regulations, and by the planners to enforce them.

In defence of the latter, it has to be said that enforcement is time consuming and difficult. For example, how can a planning officer know when a tenancy has been agreed and formalized and, therefore, when the 14-day period of grace before the To Let sign is required to be removed is at an end?

Another supporting argument, as has been hinted at by Teddy Smith, is borne out by research done in November 2008 by Nottingham University’s Survey Unit. The research concluded that an average of only 3% of students saw To Let boards as being an important source of information when looking for accommodation (1% of first year students, 5% of second year students, 3% of final year students).

So, it is relatively safe to conclude that removing the automatic right to display To Let boards is unlikely to materially affect the ability of landlords and agents to find tenants and continue to operate their legitimate businesses.

A third argument is that the Leeds City Council scheme, on which the Nottingham one is closely based, has been in place for some time now and has been very successfully implemented.

 

‘Where Do We Go From Here?’

To take things further, Nottingham City Council needs to make an application to the Secretary of State to make a statutory Regulation 7 Direction removing deemed consent from To Let boards. PPG 19 (the Planning Policy Guidance on advertisement control) sets out the requirements of such an application.

Amongst other things, the application must show that the ‘deemed consent’ provisions are environmentally unsatisfactory in the area in which it is proposed to control To Let boards, and needs to deal with:

  • —the adverse effects on visual amenity;
  • —describe the remedial steps already taken to minimize these effects;
  • —give details of prosecutions for any illegal displays;
  • —assess the likely consequences of making the direction.

After February’s NAG meeting, the relevant officers in the Council’s Planning Services were given a full briefing as to how to prepare and take forward a submission. Although some additional work remained to be done (including supporting statements from interested parties like the students’ unions, the universities and, of course, the NAG), the intention was that the submission would go to the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government before the end of April 2011.

 

 

LETTING BOARDS: AN UP-DATE

As with so many other things, the intention and the reality did not quite match up.

In fact there was a good deal more procedure (including local – Nottingham – consultations) which had to be gone through before, on the 29 July 2011, the Council was able to make a submission to the Secretary of State for a Direction to enable it to control letting boards. This triggered yet another consultation, carried out by CLG. And this was followed by a consultation by the Council on the details of the code of practice it intends to use when/if permission is given by CLG.

A Planning Inspector has now visited Nottingham, and it is his report which will be what the Secretary of State uses when making the decision on whether to grant the Direction – or not. When it was last up-dated on the 23 December 2011, the section of the Nottingham City Council website devoted to the control of letting boards in Nottingham said: ‘Nottingham City Council is awaiting a decision from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (CLG) to grant a direction to help control the appearance of letting boards on residential properties in certain areas of the City.’ Pending that decision, the Council’s planners are continuing to monitor the state of play with letting boards, making sure that additional information is not lost and will be available if and when needed.

 

Editor’s Acknowledgement

For the February NAG meeting, Martin Blakey of Unipol Student Homes put together a comprehensive review of the issues. I happily acknowledge that his summary has been used as my guide in the preparation of this progress report for the magazine. Also, the photographs came from the same source.

And my thanks to Martin and to Jamie Woolley (Manager Unipol Nottingham) and Unipol colleagues on behalf of the supporting ‘partners’ for the time and effort they have spent on the project. Many thanks also to Jo Briggs (Nottingham City Council’s Community Planner) who, in taking on the task of preparing the final submission to CLG, found herself on one of those proverbial rapid learning curves – but got there!

Finally, and yet again, my thanks and that of the NAG Committee and Executive to those members who volunteered to monitor in their own, and other, neighbourhoods. Your help and support were invaluable.

Should we be fortunate to get a statutory scheme up and running in Nottingham, it may well be crucial for the successful implementation and enforcement of that scheme.


STOP PRESS

An e-mail has come from Jo Briggs (24 February 2012) to say that the Secretary of State has agreed to the control of letting boards in around 90% of the proposed area. In addition to an area largely dominated by the Arboretum Park and the Nottingham High School sites, the exceptions are the Wollaton Park/Wollaton Park Estate area, and the Derby Road-QMC and Hillside neighbourhood.

In these neighbourhoods the Secretary of State believes that ‘To Let’ boards are nothing more than incidental elements in the street scene with little or no material impact on the local visual amenity. To put it diplomatically, this is a disappointing result for residents living in the areas excluded by the Secretary of State, but it’s not the end: there are other avenues to explore. So don’t give up if you’re one of those residents.

It is anticipated that the scheme will be operational in April 2012.

For now, I can think of nothing more appropriate than to finish with a quote from Jo’s e-mail: ‘This is a clear testament of residents’, NAG’s and Unipol’s persistence to do something about the real problem of letting boards in this part of the city. The voluntary code and the immense amount of work which went into it would have been pivotal to DCLG’s decision.’



TACKLING NEIGHBOURHOOD EYESORES

Note: Depending on which side of the hedge happens to be yours, legislation is either a help, or a hindrance, in getting a problem solved. Hopefully, this article goes some way towards explaining the context in which enforcement happens, or not, as the case may be. And, if/when  it doesn’t, we understand whether we’ve got good reason to ask why not?



Enforcement Action in Respect of Untidy Gardens & Other Issues Affecting Visual Amenity

Residents regularly report to the City Council concerns regarding accumulations of waste in gardens or other issues concerning the visual impact of neighbouring properties.

In attempting to remedy such matters the Council’s Community Protection service generally works to a five stage model of enforcement. 

Basically, this means that if there is a problem Community Protection Officers will, in the first instance, make a polite request to the property owner to remedy the situation.  If this is not successful it will be followed up by a more formal request, usually contained in a warning letter. 

If this does not succeed, Community Protection’s Enviro-crime team will look to take more formal enforcement action, and there are a variety of legislative provisions upon which such action can be based, dependant on the exact nature of the problem itself.

For waste accumulations the Council quite often uses Section 4 of the Prevention of Damage by Pests Act – which is available when the nature of the waste is such that it could attract or harbour vermin.

The Council also commonly uses Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act for matters affecting the visual amenity of the neighbourhood and various provisions contained within the Environmental Protection Act.

Whichever legislative route the Council chooses to use, the processes to be followed, and the remedies available, are often quite similar. 

The Council is usually required to serve a formal notice on the owner and/or the occupier of the property in question.  This notice will give the recipient a defined period to resolve the matter.  This period is often statutorily prescribed, at least in part.

For example, notices served under Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act do not take effect until four weeks after they have been served, and the Council then has to give a reasonable period of time after that four week period for the remedial work to be done.

Recipients of notices generally have the right of appeal to the Magistrates on a variety of grounds i.e. that the issue isn’t actually detrimental to the amenity, what they are being asked to do is unreasonable or more than is required to remedy the problem, or the time that they have been given is too short.

If recipients do not appeal and do not comply with the notice they generally commit an offence for which they can be prosecuted. 

However, the more practical remedy available is that following expiry of the statutory notice the Council is then entitled to carry out the remedial work itself and recover its costs. 

This is not necessarily straightforward, as in some cases a court order may be necessary in order to gain access to the property to carry out such work

Experience shows that each stage of the enforcement model will be effective in solving a proportion of the issues.  Some owners will respond to the initial polite request, some to the warning letter and some to the statutory notice.  Approximately three quarters of statutory notices are actually complied with by the recipients without the need for further action.

However, as can be appreciated the process is such that there can be a considerable time lag between an issue being reported to the Council and the Council actually being in a position to remedy the matter should the owner/occupier not co-operate.

The Council appreciates that such delays can be a source of frustration for residents but unfortunately they are unavoidable.

Whilst the Council endeavours to keep complainants informed of progress on matters that they have reported, residents wanting an update on issues that they have reported should feel free to contact:

 Steve Stott, Operations Manager – Central, Community Protection, Nottingham City Council

 Tel: 101 Extension 8015096, Mobile: 07595-008-546,

E-Mail: stephen.stott6852@nottinghamshire.pnn.police.uk

It is also worth noting that where the property is a licensed house in multiple occupation (HMO) then there are conditions present within the licence that can be enforceable on the licence holder that cover untidy gardens / issues affecting visual amenity.

These conditions include:

  • ˜Ensuring that the exterior of the house is maintained in a reasonable decorative order and in reasonable repair.
  • ˜Ensuring that gardens, yards, paths and drives are maintained such that their condition does not adversely affect the amenity of the neighbourhood.
  • ˜Ensuring suitable and adequate provision for refuse storage and disposal is made.

The HMO team would also be able to take action against the licence holder, particularly if there is persistent offending and breaches of the licence conditions.

[Steve Stott, Nottingham City Council, 19 September 2010]



A STUDENT’S PERSPECTIVE

It’s the summer term for us Nottingham students and that means exams and hours of revision whilst holed-up in the library or in our own rooms.

The thing about my room is I could probably punch clean through the partition wall which separates it from my adjacent housemate’s, but I settle instead for the occasional conversation through the plasterboard.

I, of course, live in an HMO, along with six other students, and my cozy living arrangements are certainly not unusual. It sometimes gets forgotten amidst all the external problems HMOs bring to communities that they’re not always that much fun to live in either.

For example, my current situation is nowhere near as bad as a friend who found himself living in a converted garage in his second year. For £60 a week he had no window, no central heating and a single bed whose head was wedged underneath the staircase. As a 2009 article from the Nottingham Evening Post – included in the Midwinter 2009-2010 NAG magazine [p.20] – about another student who was similarly garage-bound would suggest, such cases are not unheard of.

None of this is to belittle the issues that surround HMOs, particularly where students are concerned, from poor upkeep and rubbish disposal to low-level but persistent anti-social behaviour, and the opportunistic crime they can attract.

However, as NAG members will understand, the blame does not rest solely with students, but with a combination of unscrupulous landlords, a poorly regulated market, and an ingrained culture of student living which has developed around HMOs, especially in areas like Lenton.

More purpose-built off-campus student accom-modation, like the Riverside Point development off Derby Road, might help to change this culture if they could offer secure, well-kept and affordable alternatives to shared private housing. Such arrangements tend to be more expensive, however, and (despite lacking the paper-thin walls and other such ‘eccentricities’ which are a given in standard digs) offer a lifestyle which students find less desirable, and which hardly encourages their integration into the community in the way that living next door to a local resident does, even though many students simply find themselves next to other undergrads these days.

It wasn’t so long ago when students used to lodge with the locals in relationships which both parties often remember fondly. Those days are gone, however, as the two universities have expanded, profit-seeking landlords have proliferated and student expectations of their accommodation have changed.

This seemingly strange desire to have the option of living in a rickety house with a group of mates surrounded by similar such dwellings, whilst being charged a small fortune for what you actually get, clearly remains strong as evidenced by the Nottingham University Students Union’s emphatic rejection of the council’s mooted Article 4 Direction which would require planning permission for any single dwelling to be made into an HMO or vice versa.

In fact the proposal seems sensible enough if used properly and considering that it will not reverse any previous conversions from amongst an already over-large HMO supply. The laws of the market have allowed students to live where they like for some time now, and perhaps it’s time to give legislation a try.

Whatever happens to the Article 4 now that the consultation period has passed however, it can’t change the fact that students will continue to want to cluster in certain areas of Nottingham for the foreseeable future, and local landlords will continue to want to profit from this; NAG members may not like to hear that enquiries about applying for the University of Nottingham for 2012 entry, are up nearly 50% on last year.

Nor will it alter the reality that students simply aren’t like other groups of residents; they’re heavily subsidized by their parents and the Treasury, and have no investment in their houses or the communities which they live in beyond their student years. The galling thing is that those who do cause trouble will probably grow up and become model neighbours one day, just not where any NAG members will appreciate it!

Ultimately the mutual distrust between Nottingham University, its students and NAG must thaw, more purpose-built off campus accommodation must be looked at, and the Unipol Code more rigorously enforced.

Apart from these long-term remedies, however, there are more tangible and immediate ones. If a bunch of rowdies do move in next door then introduce yourself, try the softly-softly approach before going in with all guns blazing when the next party starts.

I live next door to a takeaway and a newsagents and things have worked-out well in this regard, as we’ve got on first name terms and built trust and understanding from early on. Admittedly these aren’t homes with local families living in them, but the principle still applies as we also rent our house from the owner of the takeaway who tends to be around quite a lot, keeping us all on our toes cleaning-wise. Best of all though, give them food. Now that will command absolute fealty!

[Tim MacFarlan, 2 May, 2011]


Editor’s Note: Well, now you know! I first spoke with Tim in March last year. He wanted to write an article on ‘studentification’ for Impact, the Nottingham University students’ magazine, and we spent a while talking about the ‘issues’. I then forgot about him: frankly it’s not often that students come back to let you know how they’ve got on. However, some time later, Tim did. He hadn’t written the article. Impact had already covered the material quite recently and weren’t interested. I suggested he might like to write it in any case, let me have it, and I’d consider publishing it. We’ve stayed in touch since, and I was very happy for him when he told me he’d graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in American Studies. He’s now at Cardiff University reading for a Masters Degree, learning shorthand as part of his journalism training, and living in Cathays, as he says the Cardiff equivalent of Lenton. Worse in some respects, he reckons: quite a bit of anti-social behaviour, litter, and of course ‘to let’ signs, plus neighbours who’ve been there for 40 years and just want to leave. The usual really!

 

 

NOTTINGHAM IN BLOOM:

IT’S YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD

Note: So far in this issue of the magazine I have tried, quite deliberately, to avoid illustrations of the environmental problems that HMOs bring, except when they form part of a wider picture. So, no photographs of over-full wheelie bins spilling out on to pavements; gardens with discarded furniture and mattresses and knee-high weeds; or posters advertising night clubs and special drinks offers. We’ve all seen too much of this side of our neighbourhoods, and it’s a side that, much too often, defines them in the eyes of passers-by and visitors. Instead, I’m turning to some of the efforts by local people who are trying to give our neighbourhoods a different public face. All are connected in one way or another to the City Council’s Neighbourhood in Bloom initiative.

Forty-seven Nottingham groups participated in the Royal Horticultural Society’s Britain in Bloom ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ awards in 2011, and reports by the judges on the projects were presented to the relevant Area Committees towards the end of last year. Here is an assortment of these for groups in Area 4 (Arboretum, Berridge and Radford & Park, wards) Area 7 (Wollaton West and Wollaton East & Lenton Abbey wards) and Area 7 (Bridge  and Dunkirk & Lenton wards.


All Saints Peace Garden

Community Participation: A small but active group have persuaded the church to allow it to develop part of a garden in the church grounds which are now designated a ‘peace garden’ providing a restful place, reflective for residents and church-goers alike, although the church at present restrict the group to this garden plot. Volunteers from a local company helped develop land at the garden entrance into a pleasant, large bed of mixed shrubs and flowers. The group have received grants and donations to get this project up and running.

Environmental Responsibility: The group has been very active in the creation of features for the garden using old wood for the fencing, gates and arbour feature. A lot of waste is recycled and the knowledge of horticulture is shared within the group. Very little antisocial behaviour happens in this area because the group have created a haven of tranquillity.

Gardening Achievement: There is a good range of flowers and some fruit provided in the ground and in pots and tubs. The idea of low planters makes the garden accessible to all.

Overall: The Peace Garden is a lovely tranquil place, which we immensely enjoyed visiting.


The Lenton Drives

Community Participation: There is quite an alluring sense of calm when happening upon this lovely street. Bustle is kept to a minimum, neighbours go about their cheery way and Vida oversees it all with a sense of pride. It is however difficult to ascertain whether or not the front gardens are this way because the residents take a personal pride in their properties or whether it is so because of an intended effort to be cohesive as an entire street. Perhaps a larger welcoming group would have clarified the intent.

Environmental Responsibility: Due to the nature of the neighbourly residents, anti-social behaviour is scarce though factors such as composting and recycling were not entirely evident except perhaps on an individual basis in personal back gardens. Elements of the front gardens that were deemed to be less attractive were actually of quite significant value and should not be overlooked due to their wilder outlook, with a barrage of mosses and lichen thriving on beautiful stone walls.

Gardening Achievement: The street consists of 102 properties, nearly all of which have been catalogued to some extent by the entering property. There were some stunning individual properties that were a sight to behold, particularly at No. 114 which was outstanding in its own right. Viewed alongside other neglected properties however lets it down considerably.

Overall Description: The entry is ambitious and that in itself makes it incredibly exciting. To achieve what Vida has set out to do on this scale is a testament to her resilience and makes other entrants that have fewer properties to present on smaller terrace style streets seem easy. For the project to continue, the focus needs to be shifted to rallying the street together. Plans for the future were to hold a meeting at a nearby café. Perhaps it would be a more tangible idea to stage an open house public meeting at one of the shining examples on the street to instil inspiration in others. It would be fantastic to see the project progress from here as schemes such as this are a rarity.

 

Friends of Hawton Spinney

Community Participation: The Friends group came together in the middle of last summer after spending six years campaigning for change. Support from Nottingham City Council has been in evidence since then and has funded a noticeboard for the group to use. A big work day saw the planting of native bluebells and daffodils by the Friends group helped by students from Trent University, pupils from Bluecoat School and Nottingham City Council. The sub station was also screened with holly on this day. Future plans for the Spinney include the addition of bat boxes and possibly a wildflower meadow.

Environmental Responsibility: Bird boxes funded by Nottingham City Council and constructed by the Friends group were installed this year. Some, however, are not facing in the correct direction and this may need to be addressed when nesting season is over. Deadwood exists in sporadic places. Ideally it should be collated or added to in order to create an area for insects to thrive. The possible presence of badgers means maintenance is sensitive and consequently two full meadow cuts per year are carried out to minimise disturbance. An area has been left as long grasses, which is perfect for wildlife too. The acquisition of two bins is on the cards as littering is an ongoing problem that is regularly tackled by the Friends group.

Gardening Achievement: Sycamore trees are plentiful and sucker removal is a keen pastime of the friends group. The mature trees do cause some concern to residents but it is possible they date back to a time when the surrounding land was greener and wilder. For this reason they should be cherished.

Overall Description: The future of the site is intriguing now with such a determined Friends group in existence. It is a delight to see such an active, positive group who clearly adore and care about the future of the Spinney. It is hoped that the completed badger survey and the impending tree survey will allow the Spinney to develop in such a way that is harmonious for people and wildlife to co-exist.

[Extracts downloaded from Area Committee Meeting Agendas, Nottingham City Council Website: www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk]



AROUND THE QUEEN’S MEDICAL CENTRE & ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD

Nottingham University is justly proud of the number of awards won by its University Park campus. Anyone passing the North Entrance can’t help but admire the planting there and the seasonal displays of flowers and shrubs: an asset to the neighbourhood.

 What a contrast only a few yards away where the QMC’s Derby Road entrance – concrete, tarmac and brick – if not quite an eyesore, can hardly be called an asset to the visual character of its neighbourhood!

For going on to 17 years now, ever since local residents successfully opposed plans by the QMC to build a commercial clinical waste incinerator on the QMC site, followed by a campaign that resulted in a more neighbourhood-friendly siting of the QMC combined heat and power plant, the QMC and residents, along with local councillors, council officers, university representatives, and the local police, have held regular open meetings as part of what is now called the QMC-Residents Forum. In fact, it was one of these meetings in November 2003 that directly led to many of the positive things that have taken place in our neighbourhoods, as well as to the formation of the NAG.

Over the years since these meetings began, the relationship between the QMC and its neighbours has had its ups and downs. However, communications haven’t ever broken down and, around three years ago, they led to the start of a joint campaign to improve the appearance of the hospital’s site, beginning with bulb planting on and around the mound in the middle of the Derby Road entrance in Autumn 2009.

The next stage followed on in June and July 2010. As the monthly ‘NUH News’ announced in July 2010:

 

‘Blooming Marvellous!’

Staff at NUH got green fingered with local residents and colleagues from Nottingham City Council to mark support for Nottingham in Bloom.

Thanks to the generous donation of £5,000 from Nottingham University Hospitals Charity, NUH is this year backing the city’s Nottingham in Bloom initiative. The City Council’s Area Eight committee also put £1,000 towards the project.

Flowers and shrubs have been planted at the main entrance area of the Queen’s Medical Centre campus.’


‘Kick the Butt’ Week at QMC

The Neighbourhood in Bloom judge who assessed the QMC’s contribution in July 2010, although very complimentary about the work that had been done at that stage, also voiced what is probably the most regularly made comment at QMC-Residents Forum meetings: the amount of litter and rubbish that tends to accumulate around the entrance area and in the underpass.

This, along with the gatherings of smokers, the clouds of cigarette smoke, and the detritus they leave behind (cigarette butts, old newspapers, drink cans, coffee cups, sweet and sandwich wrappers) all help to create an impression of utilitarian neglect, which flowers alone cannot dispel. Most certainly, it does nothing to help the appearance of what is arguably one of the finest approaches to the City, and nothing to support the pride in their neighbourhood of the people who actually live around and about the QMC’s site.

The provision the QMC does or does not make for its staff, patients and visitors who want/need to smoke, or who just need somewhere to go and sit and talk outside of the building itself, is a matter of on-going debate.

However, the latest action by the QMC to try and address at least some of the problems with its ‘Kick the Butt’ week is surely welcome.

A QMC press release said:

A drive to stop patients and visitors from smoking outside the Queen’s Medical Centre has been hailed as a success.

Kick the Butt Week was held from 16-20 January to raise awareness of the no smoking policy at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) – and offer stop smoking support.

During the week between 2.00 pm and 5.00 pm, volunteers and staff wearing high visibility clothing politely asked people to stop smoking or, if they wished to continue, to do so off hospital property.

This period is a peak visiting time and also a time when people choose to smoke outside of the hospital’s main entrance. The volunteers were supported by Community Protection Officers who issued fixed penalty notices for littering, including the dropping of cigarette butts.

Also taking part were the City Council’s Cleansing Team, Logistics’ Special Duties Cleaning Team, New Leaf and Nottingham City Smoke-Free Homes Team.

... NUH is currently evaluating the week and considering ideas to keep the Kick the Butt momentum going. Nottinghamshire Community Protection Team has already committed to regular patrols of our sites and Nottingham City Council has committed to cleaning the council-owned areas near the subway at the QMC entrance on a weekly basis.


Planting for the Future

The ‘Kick the Butt’ week at QMC coincided with the latest planting on the site. Effort was concentrated in three areas: on the mound, the bank alongside the underpass, and the slope from the upper level down to A & E, and was very much about planting for the future: trees and shrubs (most of which are native species) and bulbs whose leaves, flowers, bark and berries as they grow will create year-round colour and interest and, as an added benefit, will help local birds and other wildlife.

QMC staff, local residents and Dunkirk & Lenton Ward Councillors got together with landscaper gardeners Dave and Sam on a cold Monday morning to start the planting, and Wollaton East & Lenton Abbey Ward Councillors, though unable to join in, sent their best wishes for the venture. Come spring, there should be something there for all to see, to lift spirits, and, hopefully, to engender a degree more respect for the QMC and its neighbourhood.

 


THE PARK RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION

HMOs: THE FEARS & THE FACTS

There’s been much written about the detrimental impact of Houses in Multiple Occupation in The Park over the years, but like the perpetual debate about falling standards in education, whilst we all know it to be a fact, the hard part seems to be convincing enough people that it needs to be addressed (or is that still controversial?).

So, this is an attempt to move the debate forward by spelling out both the fears and the facts, together with what’s currently being done, by ourselves, the NPEL and the police, and what you can do yourselves if you feel this isn’t enough. - And if you happen to live in an HMO, hi! This might be about you.

 

Why all the fuss?

Whether this issue has crossed your radar or not will depend on the level of disruption you have had to endure. If you were to read about some of the extreme cases and imagine yourself living next door, I can assure you no one would be prepared to tolerate this for more than a few nights.

Now we have to be careful here because the term HMO is already being used to mean something else. What we’re really talking about is not houses in multiple occupation per se, of which there are many in The Park, but the ones which are inhabited by (mostly) students and sometimes young professionals. And then we have to be careful again, because not all students and young professionals live an ‘HMO way of life’. For that matter, it’s not only (some) students and young professionals who suffer from an under-developed social awareness, but we’re talking in general terms here and dealing with the majority of cases that are brought to our attention. And that’s mostly students living in HMOs.

There are basically two options open to us: Improving the behaviour of the tenants and limiting the spread of the HMOs, and we need to be doing both. But before we can do either of these things effectively, we need to gather some information and be clear on our facts.

 

What’s the definition of an HMO?

HMOs come in a variety of forms, which from a planning perspective have to be dealt with differently. It’s typically complicated, but basically, an HMO is a shared house or flat occupied by three or more unrelated individuals (if that’s enough detail for you, you can skip this part)

Since the last election it is no longer necessary to apply for planning permission to convert a dwellinghouse into an HMO with up to 6 occupants, due to an extension of ‘permitted development rights’ awarded to owners of whole properties. Legislation currently at consultation stage will, if adopted next March allow councils to choose areas where they want to control the concentration of HMOs, by reinstating this requirement. They can do this by limiting these permitted development rights using an ‘Article 4 Direction’.

There is a further division though, defined under the ‘Use Classes Order’, between HMOs of up to 6 occupants, and those with over 6 occupants. A ‘change of use’ which would normally require planning permission, occurs when a building moves from one ‘Use Class Order’ to another. Dwellinghouses are Class C3. HMOs with 3 to 6 occupants who are ‘unrelated individuals’ are Class C4, but large HMOs with more than 6 people sharing are unclassified by the Use Classes Order. Confusingly, moving from C3 to C4 or vice versa is no longer deemed to be a change of use, whereas moving from C3 or C4 to the unclassified large HMO class, ire from 6 to more than 6 occupants is, and therefore does still require planning permission - but only if a ‘material change of use’ is considered to have taken place. And that’s where the arguments begin.

The last bit of information that’s relevant to this is the requirement for an HMO to be licensed. This was introduced under the last government, and was an attempt to regulate safety standards in HMOs by requiring landlords to licence any HMO that was more than 2 stories high and had more than 4 occupants. The expectation was that councils would apply to extend this at a later date to all HMOs.

 

How many are in the Park?

The map, which we will endeavour to keep up to date with information passed to us by residents, shows a scattering of HMOs throughout The Park with clusters on Hope Drive, Barrack Lane and a few other locations. Compared with the story in Lenton, we are not doing too badly, but there are already cases of owners of properties in The Park next door to HMOs giving up and selling, only to find that they cannot sell to anyone other than the landlords who have forced them to sell up in the first place. And that’s the tipping point.

Some of the issues associated with the increase in HMOs in Lenton are:

  • a reduction in property values when the rental market weakens
  • a reduction in quality of life for those still remaining – noise, rubbish, on-street congestion
  • a reduction in the strength of community as more residents become transient
  • an increase in workload for maintenance service
  • damage to housing stock as properties are refurbished or gutted under permitted development rights
  • an increase in petty crime associated with HMO way of life and increase in street parking.

It is for these reasons that we are keen to start a record of all HMOs in The Park, and gather the following information: The landlord’s details; The number of occupants; Compliance with Planning Permission; Whether the property is/should be licensed

Once we hold this information, we will be in a far better position to respond to both these and any future HMOs that might be proposed.

 

How can we control the spread of HMOs?

There’s no golden bullet to this one, but it is something being discussed by ourselves, the NPEL and a number of residents who are seeking their own independent solutions.

The planning guidance is, as ever, in a state of flux and open to interpretation. Any changes on that front, however, are going to be long term solutions and unlikely to be achieved by individual pressure groups. What we can do is make a case to Nottingham City Council that The Park, as a Conservation Area should be protected from an excessive influx of HMOs, if nothing else on the basis of the detrimental impact of excessive on street parking or the damage done to properties by converting them into HMOs. There are currently two national consultations relevant to this in progress, and we’ll be keeping NPRA members  informed on these in our next newsletter.

The most frustrating aspect of this is that as a private estate, we still seem to be unable to introduce any further restrictions ourselves. Some of the suggestions we have put to the NPEL include the introduction of a new business rate for absentee landlords, a limit to the number of cryptags per HMO, possibly linked to a strict enforcement of the on street parking limitation to the width of the frontage of each property. These seem to be difficult to implement, but the debate continues.

 

What is being done at present?

Due to a spate of recent complaints from residents the NPEL and the Police have held a meeting with the relevant parties to discuss our existing HMOs. The police are being very proactive in this, and are keen to make contact with as many student HMOs as possible in the form of ‘pre-emptive strikes’ rather than waiting for situations to arise.

They rightly point out that the first step should always be for residents to make contact and make it clear what is acceptable and what isn’t. Yes, this is always going to be subjective, but waiting until you’ve reached breaking point is not a healthy approach to neighbourliness - it’s always going to be a compromise, and remembering what it was like to be young includes remembering how self orientated you can be at that age, and how important it is being told as much.

 

What can we do as residents?

Much of the following advice comes from discussions with NAG (Nottingham Action Group on HMOs – www.nottinghamaction.org.uk), looking out for the few remaining home owners in Lenton.

 

If you doubt the legality of an HMO:

We’d like to know. If you contact the NPRA we’ll check it against our records and if necessary inform the City Planning Authority and keep you informed of the outcome.

And if a potential HMO property goes on the market near you, get involved at the outset, not when the deal’s been done.

 

If you’ve had enough of the ‘HMO way of life’:

Should you find that your HMO is becoming a recurring nightmare, and talking directly with the occupants isn’t working, we suggest the following course of action:

Contact the landlord or managing agent if you know who it is, and inform them of the issue, maybe at the time it’s happening. It is in their interest to deal with any complaint immediately.  We will be providing as many details as we can on our website as our database grows, so check there first.

If this doesn’t solve the problem and you want to be sure a complaint is logged, here are the contact details you’ll need:

  • Our local beat officer for The Park: PC Ian Taylor PC 672, Tel: 07792 437368
  • Contact the University if appropriate (they will start by checking their records to see if the property is occupied by students at their institution and then see what they can do to intervene).
  • The liaison officer, Nottingham University: Melanie Futer. Tel:  0115 951 4649 email: melanie.futer@nottingham.ac.uk.
  • The liaison officer, Nottingham Trent University: Mark Simmonds Tel: 0115 848 4290 email: mark.simmonds1@ntu.ac.uk
  • City Council Environmental Health section (they are the point of contact at the Council for most HMO related problems): Tel: 0115 915 6170, E-mail: public.health@nottinghamcity.gov.uk
  • ASBO helpline: 0115 9152020
  • Make sure the NPEL estate office is aware of the problem and any complaints you have made. There is now a book at reception where you can record any incidents so that the NPEL have a central record to refer to.

And if this all strikes you as alarmist and uncomfortably protectionist, talk to some of those on the front line first.

If you want to join the NPRA as a member or join our committee to help us protect and improve the Park Estate, please contact: Mike Siebert on 0115 9243841 or email us at info@parknews.co.uk.


Editor’s Acknowledgement

My thanks to Christine Walker, Mike Siebert and Dan Lucas for allowing me to use this article, which appeared in a recent issue of The Park News.

 

 

NEIGHBOURHOOD CONSTITUENCY MPs & WARD COUNCILLORS

 

NOTTINGHAM EAST CONSTITUENCY

 

Arboretum, Berridge, Dales, Mapperley, Sherwood, and St. Anns Wards
 
Chris_Leslie.png
 

CHRIS LESLIE MP

Tel: (0115) 711-7666
E-Mail: chris.leslie.mp@parliament.uk
Write:
12 Regent Street
Nottingham NG1 5BG

 

NOTTINGHAM SOUTH CONSTITUENCY

Bridge, Clifton North, Clifton South, Dunkirk & Lenton, Leen Valley, Radford & Park, Wollaton East & Lenton Abbey, and Wollaton West Wards

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LILIAN GREENWOOD MP

Tel: (0115) 711-7000
E-Mail: lilian.greenwood.mp@parliament.uk
Write:
12 Regent Street
Nottingham NG1 5BG


WARD COUNCILLORS

Arboretum Ward

Merlita Bryan: 915-1909; Azad Choudhry: 07711-117-661

Berridge Ward

Mohammed Ibrahim: 910-3745; Carole Jones: 07943-829-572; Toby Neal: 840-9815

Bridge Ward

Nicola Heaton: 07947-898-704; Michael Edwards: 07876-203-352

Dales Ward

David Mellen: 915-2497; Gul Nawaz Khan: 07890-391-207; Kenneth Williams: 947-7513

Dunkirk & Lenton Ward

Sarah Piper: 958-2024; Dave Trimble: 876-3788

Radford & Park Ward

Mohammad Alsam: 941-8030; Steph Williams: 847-7513; Liaqat Ali: 07508-556-517

St. Anns Ward

Jon Collins: 8764-265; David Liversidge: 915-05624; Sue Johnson: 97506-707-984

Wollaton East & Lenton Abbey Ward

Stuart Fox: 07534-709-170; Sally Longford: 07732-972-465 

Wollaton West Ward

Georgina Culley: 916-3278; Eileen Morley: 849-7417; Steve Parton: 946-3572

Write to Councillors:

LH Box 28 Loxley House
 
Station Street
 
Nottingham NG2 3NG

Generic E-Mail Address for Councillors & Council Officers: xx.yy@nottinghamcity.gov.uk
Nottingham City Council Telephone: 0115-915-5555




Dubrovnik to Venice
INVITATION TO THE CAPTAIN’S TABLE


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 ‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.’

[Virginia Woolf]

Note: When I added a selection of recipes to the last NAG magazine,  I suspected I’d end up with quite a bit of flack for having done so. As it turned out, it was probably the most favourably received part of the magazine with a surprising number of requests for more of the same!

Once again, most of the recipes have been collected from members of the NAG, and a goodly number of the end-products have been sampled and enjoyed at NAG meetings. However, I have also included two of my own to remember food eaten and enjoyed in good company in places up and down the Croatian coast.


ORANGE CAKE

1 small orange
140g caster sugar
3 eggs
85g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
50g butter, melted
 
20cm deep round springform cake tin

 Put orange in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 hour. Remove the orange and allow to cool.

Heat oven to 1800C/fan 1600C/gas mark 4.

Butter and line the base of the cake tin. Roughly chop the cooked orange and discard pips. Put in a food processor/blender and blend until smooth.

Whisk the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and ground almonds on to the egg mixture and gently fold in using a large metal spoon. Then add the orange puree and melted butter. Fold in gently until just mixed. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until the cake is brown and springs back under light pressure. Cool in the tin.

 

 CHOCOLATE FUDGE BROWNIES

125g milk chocolate & 50g white chocolate, chopped
9 ready-to-eat prunes
200g dark muscovado sugar
3 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g plain flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 1800C/1600C fan assisted/gas mark 4. Grease a 15 cm square shallow cake tin. Line the base.

Melt the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Put prunes and 100 ml water in a food processor/blender and whizz for 2 to 3 minutes to make a puree. Add muscovado sugar and whizz again briefly. In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the vanilla extract, prune mixture, flour, white chocolate and egg whites to the bowl of melted chocolate.

Fold everything together gently. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour, or until firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin. Then turn out, dust with icing sugar and cut into 12 squares.

 

LEMON CHEESE CAKE

For the top and base
4 large eggs
52g hazelnuts, ground
zest of 1 lemon
52g icing sugar
25g butter, melted
38g plain flour, sieved

 For the filling
250g ricotta or similar soft cheese
grated zest of 1 lemon & juice of 2 lemons
5 tbsp caster sugar
1 sachet of vanilla sugar or ½ tsp vanilla essence
1 sachet gelatine powder
420 ml double cream

Two 22/23cm sandwich tins

One 20cm deep round springform cake tin
 
Heat oven to 1900C/1600C fan assisted/gas mark 4. Grease sandwich tins and line the base. Line the base of the round springform cake tin.

Separate egg yolks and whites. Whisk egg yolks with icing sugar until thick and pale coloured. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites alternately with ground hazelnuts and flour. Finally, add melted butter and fold in until just mixed. Don’t over mix as this recipe has no raising agents other than the air beaten into the egg whites.

Butter and line base of sandwich tins. Divide mixture into two and spoon into the tins. Bake until golden brown and springy. Allow to cool.

For the filling, beat the cheese together with the lemon zest, caster sugar and vanilla sugar or essence until smooth.

Sprinkle the gelatine on about 2 tbsp of cold water in a cup and leave to ‘sponge’. Alternatively, follow whatever method is recommended by the manufacturer of your gelatine. Then melt, either in a microwave for about 30 seconds or stir over a water bath until dissolved. Next, beat some of the cheese mixture into the gelatine. Then return to the rest of the mixture and beat together quickly and thoroughly. Chill in the ‘fridge for about 10 minutes until the mixture begins to set. Meantime, whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks. Then fold into the setting cheese mixture.

Place one of the sponge cakes into the bottom of a 20cm deep round springform cake tin and pour in the cheese mixture. Level the surface and place the second sponge cake on top, pressing gentle on to the cheese mixture. Return to the ‘fridge to chill until firm. Then carefully remove the cake, if necessary easing around the sides of the tin with a cake knife. Place on a serving dish and lightly dust with icing sugar just prior to serving. Can be served with whipped cream.

 

 

CHOCOLATE ‘TORTE-URE’

500g melted dark chocolate
50g butter
50g caster sugar
125g mixed dried fruit, 125g hazelnuts, chopped
125g almonds, chopped, 60g almonds, ground
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp mixed spice
sponge fingers
Brandy
 
Baking tin lined with cling film

Soak dried fruit in brandy overnight, or alternatively microwave. Cream together butter and sugar and gradually add beaten eggs a little at a time, beating until well combined. Then fold in 30g ground almonds. To the soaked dried fruit add 125g chopped hazelnuts, 125g chopped almonds and 30g ground almonds and add to the melted chocolate along with the mixed spice. Add a crumbled packet of sponge fingers and mix quickly, but well. Pour into the baking tin and leave to cool and go solid. Turn out, chop into 2cm pieces.

Contributor’s Warning: Raw eggs are used, so this recipe is not suitable for pregnant women or the elderly. Also, it’s rich so hide the bathroom scales until a week after you’ve finished it!

 

 

PORTER CAKE

175g butter
450g mixed dried fruit & glace cherries
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Few drops orange essence
175g light muscovado sugar
200ml ‘porter’ (e.g. Guinness)
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, beaten
300g plain flour
2 tsp mixed spice
 
20cm deep round springform cake tin, greased and base lined with greaseproof paper

Heat oven to 1500C/fan 1300C/gas mark 2. Butter and line the base of the cake tin. Put the butter, dried fruit, glace cherries, orange zest  and juice, sugar and porter into a large pan. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring until the butter is dissolved. Then cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add orange essence and cool (still covered) for 10 minutes. Then stir in the bicarbonate of soda. The mixture will foam. This is normal. Stir the beaten eggs into the mixture in the pan. Sift the flour and spice into the mixture and mix well. Pour into the prepared tin, smooth the surface and sprinkle with about 2 tbsp demerara sugar.

Bake for 1¼ to 1½ hours. Cool in tin for 15 minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

 

 

DUBROVAČKA ROZATA

(Dubrovnik Cream Caramel)

(12 servings)

1 doz large eggs
220g granulated sugar
1 litre milk
1 vanilla pod, or vanilla bean paste
350 ml double cream
100g shelled almonds, roughly chopped and toasted
70g raisins
20 ml rum
60g candied orange peel

 For the caramel:
120g granulated sugar
 
1 large decorative mould, or smaller moulds for individual caramels

Soak raisins in rum, preferably overnight. Prepare caramel for lining the mould(s). Measure the sugar into a dry saucepan and place over a moderate heat. Stir until the sugar melts and turns golden-brown. When golden-brown draw off the heat and add 3 tablespoons cold water. Care needs to be taken as the mixture will boil up with the addition of liquid. Return the pan to the heat and stir until any bits of caramel have dissolved and you are left with a thick syrup. Pour into mould(s). Holding mould(s) in a cloth, tip slightly so that the caramel coats the inside. Set aside while preparing the cream.

Put the milk and the seeds scraped from inside the vanilla pod (or about 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste) in a pan and bring to the boil.

In another bowl mix eggs and sugar.

Strain boiled milk, allow to cool a little, and then slowly add to the eggs and sugar mixture stirring constantly, but gently so as not create froth on the surface.

Pour the milk mixture into the mould(s) and place in deep baking tray filled with about 1cm. water Place in a slow oven (1500C, gas mark 2) and bake for approximately 1 hour. Baking the rozata at a higher temperature and for a shorter time will result in poor texture and appearance. When the middle of the rozata is half set, pop a few raisins soaked in rum into the middle.

When the rozata is set, take out of the oven, cool and allow to chill in the ‘fridge overnight.

Loosen the top edge of the rozata with a knife. Turn out on to a serving dish (or into individual bowls) and drain away any liquid caramel.

Decorate with whipped cream and a sprig of mint, or with thin strips of candied orange.

 

 

 

PART II END NOTE:
THE EDITOR’S AFTER THOUGHTS
The Grey Havens

Farewell Liburnija

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The Liburnija entering Gruž Harbour 20 September 2011:
downloaded from http://www.webcams.travel/webcam/1297196385-Weather-Dubrovnik-Port-Gruz-Dubrovnik


‘The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began. ...’

[J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

In my hunt for the Liburnija, the internet, as always, proved to be a good, if frustrating, ally. Good because it revealed a fascinating world of ships, ship spotting and ship tracking that I hadn’t imagined existed out there. Frustrating because, although I could find some of the Liburnija’s past history (November 1971: exhibition ship sailing to Las Palmas, Guyana, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Jamaica; 1991: the ‘Homeland War’ and sailing at the head of a convoy that broke the blockade of Adriatic ports and carried aid to Dubrovnik), what I couldn’t find was her  in the present.

However, by then I’d found another harmless enough past-time, checking websites in the Adriatic to see what the weather was like and, if there happened to be a webcam as well, taking a look at what it had to offer. One morning in July 2010, logging on much later than I usually did to a website in Korčula, I found on my computer screen an indistinct, but achingly familiar shape. I’d stumbled upon the Liburnija!

Only weeks before I’d started my search for her, or so one of the websites reported, the Dalmacija, who we’d met in Patmos all those years before, had gone to the breaking yards of India. There were rumours on the same website that at the end of September, the Liburnija too would be making a similar journey. What else could I do than try and sail with her again?

In mid-September a last minute fortuitous meshing together of plane and hotel availabilities put us on a flight from East Midlands to Dubrovnik. The final approach took us over Gruž. Below was the silver network of the (for me) new suspension bridge, the harbour, our hotel (the Petka) and, nearly 40 years since I’d first joined her in Venice, turning across the bay to dock at the passenger quay, the Liburnija herself. Magic, coincidence, fate, call it what you will, but surely the stuff of which memories are made.

It now seems that my sailings with the Liburnija over the last two years will be my last.

On Thursday 29 September 2011 the Liburnija left Dubrovnik for Rijeka on the last voyage of the season. The following day, an article in the Dubrovnik Times entitled ‘Farewell Liburnija!’ reported on the emotional send-off she’d received when, on the Thursday lunch-time, she’d left Korčula.

The report also confirmed that this had been not just her final voyage of the season, but also her final sailing. Too old, (She was launched in March 1965.) too small, too slow, and much too out-of-date, (She doesn’t even have stabilizers!), she was now for sale, her present destination a shipyard in Mali Lošinj where she would await her fate.

Though I would have wished it to be otherwise, bearing in mind how I’d tracked her down, it’s somehow right that I watched her last sailing from Korčula at a distance, logged on to the same webcam that had first found her for me.

The Liburnija is the thread I’ve used to bring together the different chapters of this magazine. But, as I look back over the pages already written I notice another thread weaving itself in and out of the story: that of challenges and how they are faced, sometimes lost, sometimes overcome.

I’m also reminded that 2010, when I began to compile this issue, was not just the 40th anniversary of my first journey with the Liburnija, but also the 40th anniversary of NASA’s Apollo 13 mission, and the 20th anniversary of the Hubble Telescope’s time in space.

Both were products of ultimately successful science and engineering challenges. However, it’s important to remember that this was very nearly not the case.

Because Apollo 13 did not land on the moon, did not achieve its ‘mission goals’, it can be argued that the mission itself was a failure. Nevertheless, the fact is that Jim Lovell and his crew made it back home. That they did so was because of their own fortitude, resourcefulness, and NASA teamwork, coupled to the ingenuity of the same science and engineering that had failed them in the first instance. And, of course, also allied to a heavy dose of sheer good luck. So, when their capsule finally splashed down in the Pacific, three astronauts – and a ‘successful failure’ – were almost literally plucked out of the depths of disaster.

Similarly, only weeks after its launch from the space shuttle Discovery, the success of the Hubble mission was put in jeopardy when the images produced by the telescope revealed a serious and fundamental problem with the optical system.

The Hubble mirror had been made the wrong shape.

It was to be another three years before another shuttle, Endeavour, and its astronauts delivered and installed what was in effect a pair of correcting spectacles to Hubble. In the interim the telescope had been seen as something of a disaster; the butt of many jokes. However, once images started to come back from Hubble with its glasses in place, the joking had to stop.

I have no intention of having my reputation as a ‘glass half empty’ sort of person compromised. Neither am I prepared to indulge in what is politely called ‘sanctimonious hyperbole’. However, it appears to me that, just as they did with Apollo 13 and again with Hubble, so now Nottingham and our neighbourhoods have been presented with challenges to which answers must be found. Moreover, just as with Apollo and Hubble, hard work and perseverance are showing signs of beginning to pay off, turning an endeavour that has so often seemed to be on the brink of failure into something which, though not by any means an unqualified success, has about it a feeling that something useful can be done for the future.

Not that the challenges have gone away, and not that the NAG can abrogate what has always been one of its prime functions: to challenge. But there are reasons to be hopeful, if not cheerful.

The Article 4 Direction on HMOs will come into effect in a week’s time. It would be economical with the truth indeed to present this as a panacea for the ills in our neighbourhoods. It isn’t. Like any tool, its usefulness depends on how well it’s used. One of the NAG’s challenges is to influence that, and to remember that if it isn’t used well, our Council (elected Members and their officers) can be held to account as they could not have been before.

Quoting again from Jo Briggs’ e-mail ‘... the great and long awaited news’ about the Regulation 7 Direction giving the city council the power to implement its code of practice on ‘To Let’ boards, means that, if the controls are enforced – and there is every reason to hope they will be, and a challenge to ensure that they are – this not insignificant success will produce a visible improvement to the environment of most of our neighbourhoods.

Of course, the fly in the ointment is those neighbourhoods which CLG have excluded from the Regulation 7, one of which happens to be my own. However, as CLG puts it ‘The  Secretary of State invites comments ...’. So the challenge here is twofold: to make comments and to explore whatever other avenues are available.

I understand that councillors for Dunkirk & Lenton and Wollaton East and Lenton Abbey Wards and our MPs, Lilian Greenwood and Chris Leslie, will be taking advantage of CLG’s invitation to comment, as will Unipol, the NAG, and, I would hope, residents’ associations in those wards. Also, it’s possible that the areas omitted from the Regulation 7 can be made subject to the same code of practice, but on a voluntary basis, and that monitoring the results will produce data that can be used in fresh applications to CLG. So, not yet quite the right time to give up on that one either.

This isn’t Dubrovnik where the total population of the city and the surrounding area is about equivalent to Nottingham’s student population (55,000), and where more than a million travellers pass through its port each year, most of them it seems staying for a few hours only. But, no doubt here, as there, the arguments about the benefits and disadvantages of a large transient population and (in our case) concentrations of HMOs will continue to rumble on.

However, things are different from what they were eight years ago when the NAG started. The problems experienced in our neighbourhoods have been recognized; are no longer being swept under the carpet of mendacious gossip. The need to do something about them has been accepted, and while they can’t be solved easily, the challenge is that they can be mitigated against if NAGgers, their families, friends and neighbours keep doing ‘what it says on the bottle’ – NAGging.

I really do hope that on this spring day with the sun shining, the crocuses, daffodils and snowdrops already out in the garden, and one of our resident wrens trying to decide whether to be conventional, or whether to nest in our kitchen extractor fan, that my ramblings haven’t been too tedious for you. That perhaps through them you may have come to enjoy a little of what the Liburnija has brought me, and taught me about the past, the present and the future, and feel a little more hopeful that the ‘winter of our discontent’ can be made to turn, if not into ‘glorious summer’, then at least into a new spring.

[Editor, 5 March, 2012]