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Students criticise Falmouth's new housing powers

By WBCraig  |  Posted: March 15, 2014

Row over student housing

STUDENTS have criticised new housing legislation which aims to tighten controls over multiple occupancy homes and improve housing standards in Falmouth, branding it a waste of time money.

Cornwall Council granted Falmouth’s request to implement the Article Four Direction from next year, a move which the town council has been pushing for since 2010.

But the Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union (FXU) said it is “concerned” that the legislation has been discussed as a way to “restrict student housing”, and that it may prevent people on low incomes from being able to live in the town in the future.

The town council hit back saying the push for the legislation was not an “anti-student” move and that it was “disappointing” if FXU view it that way.

When the legislation takes effect in Falmouth in 12 months time, landlords will need planning permission to convert a property from use as a single unit into small House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).

Frankie Boyd, FXU vice-president for welfare, said: “I don’t think this will have any impact on the issues it is supposed to tackle and there has been little proof nationally that implementing Article 4 improves the community.

“It’s a shame that the council has failed to engage effectively with us or students in order to proactively tackle some of the real issues at hand.

“As a local tax payer, I am concerned that money and resources will be expended on introducing and enforcing legislation that may have no real impact on the issues it seeks to address.

“At a time when vital public services are being cut, I’m sure the money could be spent on more important things.

“Because Article 4 can’t be retrospectively enforced, nothing will change. Local people need to look carefully at some of the claims that are being made about Article 4.”

Falmouth Town Council clerk Mark Williams said: “This is a piece of work that the council has been undertaking for several years, and the Article 4 will be one tool, in a suite of measures, for housing and environmental improvements, that will benefit everyone living in our community.

“It is certainly not anti-student and it is disappointing if FXU view it that way.”

Truro and Falmouth MP Sarah Newton welcomed the council’s new powers.

‘‘For too long too many family properties in Falmouth have been lost to student housing, creating an accommodation shortage for local people wanting to live in the town,” she said.

“It has not been good news for students either, with the HMO free-for-all attracting a small number of rouge landlords to the town, resulting in some student accommodation being sub standard and in a few cases downright dangerous.”

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Do you think the new laws forcing landlords to apply for planning permission before converting a house into a student home are good news for Falmouth?