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Diverse, not divided: Article 4 implementation in student cities

Tuesday 23-08-2016 - 10:59

UEASU's Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer Jo Swo and Campaigns and Democracy Officer Amy Rust explain why the potential introduction of an Article 4 Direction in Norwich will damage the city's student community.

Everyone who has been a student remembers the rush - the nerves, the excitement and the butterflies in your stomach as it dawns that you are embarking on the next stage of your life. Most would consider the next few years at university the best years of their life, and most would consider their host city their home.

At some point over those years, many students enter private accommodation and enter a market with a complex relationship with students. In Norwich, our students live right across the city, but most settle in the Golden Triangle area of terraced housing and easy access to campus and the city centre. These houses are often Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) which are currently under threat from proposals brought forward by a cross-party coalition of city councillors.

Already in place in student cities across the country, an Article 4 Direction can be used by local authorities to require that landlords apply for planning permission to change the use class order of their property from a C3 dwellinghouse to a C4 HMO. The council then have the ability to refuse this permission in areas with an already high density of HMOs.

This means student and young professional might find themselves pushed out of the city and subject of higher rents. We’ve been lucky enough to react early, with plans only in the advisory stages. We have reason to believe the cabinet decision will be to taken to consultation, which is evidenced by our own councillors admitting plans would go through regardless.

Hundreds of our students have expressed their dismay over the potential imposition of Article 4, many citing it as troubling for those with access needs who need to be close to our campus and stating it as unfairly stigmatising students as the problem. Implementation of an Article 4 direction in this way is a smoke screen to broader assumptions of student behaviour and problems that have occurred outside of students control.

The most popular argument we receive in support of an Article 4 direction is that students cause an imbalance to the diverse, family-oriented local population. This ‘family vs student’, ‘old vs young’, ‘us vs them’ rhetoric is certainly not a discussion our students' union, nor students' unions across the country, should be engaging with.

At UEA, we’re taking steps to build relationships with the community; we’ve launched our Good Neighbour Scheme, we’re planning student-led street parties and we’re developing a strategy to tackle rising hate crime both on our campus and in the city.

Article 4 has the potential to alienate students out of the community and fuels unfair stereotypes that students are unruly residents who disturb the community they have called home. With the potential to have a long term impact on the student experience here in Norwich, we will fight this at every stage with the student interest at the forefront.

UEASU's petition for Norwich City Council to reject Article 4 can be found here.

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