Monday, January 30, 2006

Come friendly bombs and fall on Loughborough

Charnwood District Council has decided that new houses can only be built in Loughborough if students aren't allowed to live there. That this is illiberal does not need justification. That it is stupid and that the District Councillors are a bunch of peabrained oafs who probably wouldn't even get into Loughborough College, let along the highly distinguished Loughborough University (11 RAE 5 departments, 3 5*'s, with much award-winning research done by PhD students who the Council is proposing to throw out), might. So here goes.

1) The proposed ban is ludicrously overbroad, covering any student under 27. As a 25 year old PhD student in Cambridge, I am considered a "professional tenant" by my landlord, his freeholder, and their insurance company (all of whom stand to lose money if I trash the place). According to Charnwood District Council's planning committee members (none of whom are spending their own money, or indeed their Council Tax payers' money, on private student accommodation) I am a drunken kebab-eating nuisance.

2) Loughborough University and College employ 4000 people between them. The experience of mining towns following pit closures is that every job working directly for an outside employer supports two additional jobs within the local economy. This means that 12,000 people, or more than 1/3 of the working age population of Loughborough, owe their jobs to the education sector. The University and College won't survive if their students can't find a place to live.

3) Assuming that Charnwood Council don't want to destroy their economy, they know that students must live either on or off campus. Yet as well as trying to keep students out of off-campus housing, they also refused planning permission for an expansion of on-campus housing. The University is well stuffed, and has responded by curtailing expansion plans. Yes, that's right, the largest employer in Loughborough has cancelled a planned expansion because the aging nimby's on the local council didn't like the idea of young people having fun in their city.

4) Putting covenants in property titles is a long-term project which can make you look very stupid in the eyes of history. There are still houses in America with a covenant in the title that prevents sales to black people. I imagine that the Charnwood Board of Morons will want the students back when their economy starts tanking. Getting anti-student covenants off property titles could prove difficult when that happens.

5) This will have obvious unintended consequences for Loughborough residents in their twenties who want to become mature students.

Charnwood District Council is controlled by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. While I expect this kind of vile behaviour from the Labour party with it's "Respect" agenda of keeping blacks gypsies students out of people's communities, I expect better from Liberal Democrats. I hope for the sake of the continuing leadership candidates that that Liberal Democrat group in Charnwood are Oaten supporters.

Scarier is the prospect that they are just "local campaigners standing up for local people" who found that "drunken students" figured high on the Focus grumble sheet, and then followed the standard thought process of illiberal numbskull politicians everywhere:
  1. Something must be done
  2. This is something
  3. Therefore we must do it

The party is the "Liberal Democrats" and not "UK FOCUS team" for a reason - because we exist to promote Liberalism. I believe "material disagreement, evidenced by conduct, with the objects of the Party" is an expellable offence. One of the objects of the Party is that people should not be driven out of their homes just because they are the wrong age. Another is promoting access to further and higher education.

The original Guardian article suggests that Leeds and Newcastle (both under Lib Dem majority control) are considering similar policies. I hope LDYS is ready with a large cluebat.

UPDATE 01/02: I have spoken to Leeds Uni Lib Dems and apparently Leeds have only introduced restrictions on purpose-built student housing, not on any housing being let to students. This seems a wholly reasonable application of planning law.

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  • At 10:22 pm , Blogger Chris Palmer said...

    “I am a drunken kebab-eating nuisance.”

    You might not be, but many students can be. You are probably the exception rather than the rule if what you say is true. These “aging nimby’s” probably don’t like the fact that many drunken rampaging students trash their gardens at two in the morning or make the town centre a no-go-zone in the evening to late at night.

    It’s nice to see such a “tolerant liberal” having such a tolerant attitude to the local district council. Whether these council members are Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem (though they are probably not Lib Dem, because if they were, you wouldn’t be complaining,) doesn’t matter, but in a couple of paragraphs you managed to rubbish their intelligence. It’s safe to say that Cambridge and Oxford students aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Many of them may be intelligent, but they have virtually no common sense or got lucky in the selection process, and their inflated egos often get the better of them.

    “One of the objects of the Party is that people should not be driven out of their homes just because they are the wrong age.”

    You need not worry then. Since the council is not actively throwing out people of the wrong age, but only refusing planning permission for further student homes – this seems perfectably acceptable. Perhaps the local council has taken the intelligent approach of trying to ween the local economy off the University and may in the future attempt to diversify?

  • At 10:35 pm , Blogger LibertyCat said...

    The point about whether or not I am a lout is that private landlords (who put their property where their mouth is) regard all mature and postgraduate students as good tenants until proven otherwise, whereas the Loughborough covenant keeps out any student under 27.

    And I specifically said that the Councillors responsible did include Liberal Democrats - I am slagging them off anyway because they support policies which are both stupid and illiberal.

    If you object to my being nasty about people whose political views I disagree vehemently with, then I suggest that you do your blog-reading at, where compulsory niceness is enforced by legal threats.

    P.S. The drunks who make City Centres intolerable late at night are more likely to be townees than students. Most students can't afford to go out drinking outside the Students' Union any more.

  • At 10:49 pm , Blogger Chris Palmer said...

    "If you object to my being nasty about people whose political views I disagree vehemently with, then I suggest that you do your blog-reading at, where compulsory niceness is enforced by legal threats."

    No, I just find it highly hypocritical.

  • At 11:05 pm , Anonymous Jonathan Massey said...

    it's not just postgrads that can conduct themselves sensibly - us undergrads can too! i see far more trouble and anti-social behaviour in my home (non-student) town of workington than i ever do in (the very studenty city of) bristol

  • At 9:55 am , Blogger Giacomo said...

    "No I just find it hypocritical"

    Well I'm baffled.

    It's not hypocritical to preach tollerance and to be intollerant to stupidity and intollerance.


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