Consultation is under way over changes which will mean houseowners in the vicinity of Hull University having to seek planning permission if they want to turn a property into student flats.
It follows concerns about the impact of the high number of houses in multiple occupation near the university, amid fears they are creating “imbalanced communities” with too few permanent residents and complaints about noise, untidy properties and overflowing wheelie bins.
While some residents have welcomed the move, approved by Hull Council’s Cabinet earlier this summer, the students’ union argues it could lower house prices, risk economic growth on Newland Avenue, one of the most vibrant shopping streets in the city, and deter students from applying to the university in the first place.
A 600-signature petition, raised by the union’s former vice-president Tom Peel, is going to the council on Thursday.
Residents have until the end of November to comment on the new rule which would come into effect next October – but only after it is confirmed by the council.
The petition quotes a 2011 study which said the city was the seventh highest in the UK in terms of how much students contribute to the local economy, accounting for around five per cent of the city’s spending.
It warned that implementing the rules would harm the university’s ability to attract students “at a time when it needs every competitive advantage”.
It adds: “Moreover studies show that accommodation is the third highest deciding factor for prospective students. As the university cannot currently provide accommodation for all its first-year students, many choose to live in the private sector, situated in close proximity to the university with good transport links and amenities.
“With the change in fees, the university has seen a larger than sector drop in applicants.
“We have no doubt that prospective students would be put off coming to the University of Hull, as student accommodation would be situated in areas further away from the university with poorer transport links.”
The students’ union has also been running a Street Reps scheme, trying to build bridges with the local community, tagging hundreds of wheelie bins, taking part in street clean-ups and advising other students on crime prevention.
Beverley ward councillor Dave McCobb voted in favour of the new controls. He said the rules would only apply to new conversions, not existing student houses.
He said: “At the moment there’s a free-for-all. It is not about saying no more students, it is about enabling the council, through the planning process, to plan how areas are developed and how services are provided.
“The students’ union seem to have interpreted this is an attack on students, which it isn’t.
“If a landlord buys a big house on Beresford Avenue and converts it into a student house the council has no power to require them to provide off-street parking or emergency fire escapes. I think it is certainly worth trying to see if it helps some of the long-term problems in the area.”
Coun McCobb said the Street Reps scheme had helped, but the turnover of students meant “every September you would be starting with a blank page”.
He said students leaving out overflowing bins was one of the main complaints, as was finding a car parking space, with many students now owning a car. He said: “The only feedback I’ve had is from the permanent residents in the area, who welcome it.”
Humber Landlords’ Association have previously warned that the move could harm the city’s prospects. The association said it was “strongly opposed” to the idea that houses with multiple occupants were bad for an area.
Similar regulations have been introduced in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Portsmouth and Southampton.