Contracted to the community

Last week’s heartfelt letter from a resident in South Leamington about student houses or Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMOs) has struck a chord with local Labour councillors who have been very concerned about the excessive concentration of student houses in some area of the town. We do not want to think that residents feel that they are “completely abandoned by the authorities”; although we do understand why they think so.

There is no doubt that having a world class university so close to the town has had significant economic and social benefit to our community as was confirmed last September in the Courier. According to the report £84 million was injected into the local economy in one year. We should also not forget that most students are a credit to the town and bring a vibrancy and energy to the community. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the downside.

The key to the problem is the density of student houses in our communities. Why? Because young people have a different lifestyles to the settled community. You only have to walk down key residential streets in Leamington to point out the student houses as there is usually a lot of rubbish outside and typically the landlord has not kept the property in good condition.

We think the time is right to explore the notion of Community Contracts where all parties – students, landlords and local residents agree on how their local community is managed. That is why we are calling on the vice-chancellor at the university, the Student’s Union and local landlords to look at new ways of addressing the problem. We are hoping people will be willing to sign up to this initiative, particularly issues such as landlord maintenance and student’s dealing with their refuse. We hope that all parties will come on board with us to find ways of supporting a stronger community spirit.

Cllr Jerry Weber, Leamington Clarendon (Lab)