Council refuses powers to limit student digs

Councillor Gavin Barrie. Picture: comp
Councillor Gavin Barrie. Picture: comp
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RESIDENTS fighting to limit student accommodation in their area have slammed city council chiefs for refusing to take up powers to block new licences for shared flats and houses.

Campaign group Living Southside – formed in opposition to a spate of new student residences – wanted councillors to adopt a policy of refusing licences for houses in ­multiple occupation (HMOs) on grounds of overprovision.

But despite concerns that up to 60 per cent of flats in some parts of the Southside, Marchmont and Tollcross are occupied by students, a review by the council concluded that there is no oveprovision – and in fact the problem is “unmet demand”.

And a report to the council’s regulatory committee next week says: “An overprovision policy could worsen the situation by having a negative impact on the amount of shared accommodation available.”

Hilary McDowell, of Living Southside, said the high turnover of people in student flats meant there was no way of building up a community in some parts of the city.

She said: “In some stairs there is only one owner-
occupier or long-term resident. This is not about ‘We hate ­students’, it’s about how you create a stable community. You cannot get to know your ­neighbours if they only live here for ten months.

“We are committed to living here and we would like to make it a place where people feel they can put down roots.”

Edinburgh East Labour MP Sheila Gilmore complained the council review had consulted tenants groups, letting agents and landlords, but not ­community councils or ­residents groups.

She said: “Allowing ­further unfettered access to hotspots where HMO numbers are already high is a decision which cannot be taken lightly. Consultation must be 
reopened so that residents and ­community groups can have their say, and feedback if they think the council should employ new powers to introduce overprovision zones.”

Gavin Barrie, convener of the regulatory committee, said the law allowed the council to refuse HMO licences only on grounds of overprovision, not over-concentration.

The review had been a factual account of the current HMO market and it had found no overprovision. But he said there was already other work going on to look at the high concentration of HMOs in some areas of the city.