City considers limit on number of student homes after complaints

PLANS are being drawn up by Sheffield Council to restrict the number of student properties in the city.

Council bosses have now launched a consultation on the scheme, which would reduce the number of houses in Sheffield that can be converted to a shared house for between three and six unrelated people to live in.

Currently, homeowners have the right to change their house into a "house in multiple occupation" without getting planning permission.

However, the coalition Government has given local authorities the power to remove that right, so that planning permission must be granted before a house can be converted.

As people in some areas of Sheffield have complained about the high number of houses of multiple occupation – usually houses that are lived in by students – Sheffield Council has decided to keep an eye on numbers.

Council leader Paul Scriven said: "Local people have given us their views on housing and how it is used in their areas.

"Whilst they like the vibrancy that shared houses bring they have also told us that this can mean some communities become 'unbalanced'.

"We look forward to hearing the views of local people over the next four weeks about the proposals we've put forward."

The new regulations would only affect an area of the city which currently has a high proportion of students living in it –an area that encompasses the city centre to Ranmoor and Walkley, including Crookes and Broomhill, and also Heeley and Meersbrook.

Homes that are already in multiple occupation will not be affected by the proposals.

Coun Penny Baker, Sheffield Council's cabinet member for housing, regeneration and planning, said: "By introducing the need for planning permission in certain areas of the city we can make sure that housing and how is it used is as balanced as it needs to be. Home owners will just need to make sure that before making any changes to a new or existing house that they contact us first to get the planning permission that they need if these proposals go ahead."

Anyone who wishes to object to the proposals should do so by writing to Sheffield Council during the consultation period, which ends on January 7 next year. If agreed, the proposals would come into effect from December 10 2011.

Meanwhile, international students studying at Sheffield's two universities are being invited to take part in activities to make them feel at home in the city over Christmas.

The "International Student Christmas Vacation Project" aims to support the 8,000 students from 120 different countries currently studying in Sheffield, many of whom stay in the city during the holidays.

Activities will include a tour of Bramall Lane stadium, a walk in the Peak District, a Christmas dinner and the chance to volunteer with local charities.

Gomolemo Lebanna, 23, who is studying for a Mechatronics degree, will be staying in Sheffield over Christmas rather than returning to his native Botswana.

He said: "This is the first time I will have been in Sheffield for Christmas and I am really looking forward to the activities, especially the folk train to Manchester.

"It can get lonely over Christmas, so it is nice to feel there are other people around."

Asha Rogers, project co-ordinator at Sheffield University, added: "This is the first time both universities and the council have worked together to provide such a varied range of events to help support international students in the city over Christmas.

"When teaching ends and other students return home, it can be quite a lonely time for students who choose to stay in Sheffield. We want to encourage a sense of community among these students to help them feel at home."