Comment: Neighbourhood balance must be right

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GOOD neighbours make a huge difference to our quality of life.

Not everyone wants the person living next door to be dropping round for a coffee every day or leaning over the garden fence for a cosy chat. But that kind of familiarity isn’t necessarily what being a good neighbour is about.

What is far more important is the basic courtesy of thinking about the needs of the other people who share your neighbourhood.

Often it is about something as simple as putting your bins out on the right day, cutting your hedge before it gets completely out of control or keeping an eye on your neighbour’s property when they are away.

Those things, coupled with knowing that you can call on your neighbours if you ever need them, makes a real difference to how happy and secure we feel.

So it is easy to understand why many residents of the Southside are getting fed up with the ever increasing number of students living in their neighbourhood.

When students move in nextdoor, they don’t see good neighbours, but potential problems.

Students get blamed for everything from late night noise to empty takeaway cartons blowing about the street and vomit spattered pavements. If the truth be told, students don’t create all these problems, but many contribute far more than their fair share.

It’s not all bad news of course. In fact the growing number of students flocking to the Capital is very good news in many ways. Their collective spending in local shops and bars support many local jobs; without their creativity and interest in the arts the city’s cultural life would be far poorer; and many stick around after they become qualified, providing top class staff for our hospitals, banks and other businesses and public services. They are, on the whole, good for the city.

The question is how to accommodate their growing number without creating social problems. How to avoid the kind of imbalance in certain neighbourhoods that may leave older residents no longer feeling at home there. The Southside would be a far poorer place if many of its long-term residents were to move out.

The city council has quite rightly recognised the issue of social cohesion by creating a target to limit the number of student homes to less than a third of the neighbourhood total in specific areas.

This latest flurry of applications is likely to test that policy to the limit – let us hope that it is up to the test.