Green Councillors concerned at Cowley student numbers

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An Oxford councillor has claimed that students
in rented accommodation are pricing out local families from the Cowley Road
area. Sid Phelps, Green Party
councillor for St Mary’s ward said in an article in the Oxford Mail that
University accommodation had not expanded enough to house the increasing number
of students in Oxford,
resulting in students pushing other local people out of privately rented houses
in the area. Phelps told Cherwell this week that he was "not
anti-student" but that "the amount of student accommodation is
causing a problem and it’s not neccessarily that healthy: we need a
balance." He said that he feels there is a divide between students and
local residents because "students are quite inwardly focused because they
are only temporarily in Oxford."
He added "it’s starting to be a problem because families can hardly afford
to live in the area." Phelps pointed out that student
numbers have nearly reached the maximum limit set by the Oxford Local Plan for
2016 and that "The community has been tolerant but the increase in numbers
of late licenses to cater for students is starting to cause problems." He
also pointed out that demographics show that there are dwindling numbers of
pupils at schools because families cannot afford to live in the local area.
Phelps said that the solution would be to provide more purpose built University
accommodation. He added: “It’s time for universities to look at their intake
and at what is sustainable for local communities. The government target of 50%
of young people at university doesn’t help." Craig Simmons, a fellow Green
Party councillor for the St Mary’s ward area said that Mr Phelps’ original
comments to the Oxford Mail were made in response to concerns from local
residents. He said, “it’s all about striking a balance: some streets in my ward
contain 80% students.” He also stressed that a Housing Standards survey last
year found that “90% of rented accommodation was substandard.” Student numbers have been
gradually increasing with 18,113 students at Oxford between 2004-5 compared to just 16,576
students in 2001-2. A spokesperson for Oxford University
said that “undergraduate numbers have remained relatively stable, whereas
postgraduate numbers have increased in recent years,” and that many
postgraduates live outside of college. She pointed out that the total number of
students living outside of University accommodation is only “around 3,500 which
is the figure that has been discussed by the University and Council and agreed
on as acceptable.” Ailbhe Menton, JCR President for
St Hilda’s College said that “providing accommodation for all students is
something a college should strive towards,” and that “with the recent number of
attacks on students in the Cowley Road
area living on site would provide more safety measures for students.” She added
“It would be advantageous to all if renting accommodation in Oxford was generally cheaper.” Aidan Randle-Conde, OUSU VP (Welfare) and Hannah Stoddart,
OUSU VP (Charities and Community) said “We are aware that rent and property
prices in the Cowley area continue to increase, and this is … partly due to
the high demand from students … [but] inflated rent prices are as big a
problem for students as they are for local residents”. 2004 survey by the Accommodation for Students website found that whilst
the average weekly rent for a student was £52.44, Oxford had the fourth highest rent in the
country at £77 a week, which was 47% higher than the national average.ARCHIVE: 4th week MT 2005

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