Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Greens will keep up the pressure for the university to be a better neighbour

University sign cropped s

The University and students are an important part of the town. Below are Reading University's engagement plans for the coming year. We will keep up the pressure for the University to be a better neighbour and bring down the number of community complaints – which have risen sharply recently.

University of Reading Autumn Term: community engagement plans

Dates for Autumn Term

· First year students are arriving into hall accommodation this weekend (21-23 September).

· Freshers’ Fortnight is held on 24 September – 5 October

· Autumn Term starts on 1 October and ends on 14 December

Partnership working

The University is working with several partners over the year ahead, including local police and council teams. The Students’ Union (RUSU) has also put plans in place to ensure students are safe when socialising, and to minimise impact on local neighbours.

Freshers’ Activity (24/9 – 5/10)

· Local police teams will be putting on additional vehicle patrols throughout the Freshers’ fortnight, both in residential areas and in the town centre. Their aims are to support students who may be vulnerable and to manage any community issues.

· The Street Support Team (street wardens) will be working every night for the first week of Freshers’ when the majority of students will be out socialising. The wardens will be managing noise issues in residential streets and at bus stops.

· RUSU and Reading Buses will transport students from the centre of campus into town. Each hall social committee will escort their students to the centre of campus to go into town. These buses will only run throughout Freshers’ Fortnight, but may encourage students to use the 21/21a bus from campus into town.

· RUSU’s Safety Bus will be based on Friar Street, for students to get back to campus for free, after their night out.

· Training for social committees has been provided by RUSU and the University to ensure the hall-based committees keep students safe and minimise impact to neighbours when organising social events. The committees also received guidance from the police, street pastors and street wardens.

· Guidance provided to first year students. Throughout next week new students in halls will receive talks from the University and RUSU to welcome them to halls. These talks include advice on being a considerate neighbour when living and socialising in Reading.

Street Support Team during Autumn Term

· After the first week of Freshers’, the Street Support Team (street wardens) will revert to working Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the key student nights.

· The street wardens will work in pairs between 2200 and 0400 hours a night.

· They will focus on residential streets in the Whiteknights Road, Erleigh Road and Christchurch Road areas. This will include bus stops on Wokingham Road and Christchurch Road.

· Feedback can be sent to community@reading.ac.uk or you can talk to the wardens when they are on duty (they wear hi-vis and University branded jackets).

Hello Neighbour campaign

· The University and RUSU will be delivering packs of information to all student households in local neighbourhoods throughout October.

· This will include advice on waste and recycling, parking, and will encourage students to get to know their neighbours.

· The information will also be communicated to RUSU’s sports societies and clubs, as many committee members are second year students living in local neighbourhoods.

· We will hold a welcome event for students and local residents to give them an opportunity to meet (location and date to be confirmed).

Recycling campaign

· The University is working with Reading Council to improve recycling by students living in local neighbourhoods. One of the frequent complaints received by the University is students not recycling their empty glass bottles. Reading Council are also keen to reduce the amount of contaminated recycling across the borough.

· The University will pilot new schemes to encourage students to recycle their glass bottles, including a reward scheme and some information delivered directly to the student households where issues occur.

Additional resource to manage complaints

· This year the Community Relations Team will be made up of one manager (Sarah Gardner) and four student community assistants. The assistants will each focus on residential streets where there are high concentrations of student households.

· The assistants will start in mid-October and begin to meet students and local residents in these defined areas. They will also help to resolve any issues between neighbours.

· If you have a complaint about a student household please email community@reading.ac.uk or call 0118 378 6764 and one of the team will help.

Other new activity

· RUSU has created a Safe Taxi Scheme, which means that students who haven’t got any money to get home after a night out, can use the RUSU safe taxi scheme. Yell Cars (based on campus) are providing the taxis and all drivers are DPS checked.

· The bars on campus are trialling a new live bus tracker. Park Bar will display live bus times, which will hopefully encourage students to stay in the bar until their bus is due. This might alleviate some of the noise issues at bus stops, as it may mean groups of students are spending less time waiting for a bus.

Community Forum in January
The University ran a Community Forum in May, which was well-attended by local residents. We had hoped to hold the next event in November, but given the departure of Sir David Bell as the Vice-Chancellor, we will hold the next event in January when the Acting Vice-Chancellor, Professor Robert Van de Noort will be settled in post. Date and time will be circulated in due course.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Stopping HMOs from taking over

Letting agent boards in Newtown s

Green Councillors have been concerned for some time about the rise in the number of ‘HMOs’ across Reading, especially in densely populated areas like Redlands. (An HMO is a house or flat occupied by three or more tenants, who form two or more households and share space like bathrooms and kitchens.) It’s not that a single HMO can affect an area – it’s the build-up of a number of these that changes the balance of a street causing problems with waste and bins for example.

On Planning Committee, we’ve argued against more HMOs in streets like Hamilton Road and Upper Redlands Road because it’s the mix that’s important, but sadly Labour councillors give these permission every time.

However, there is a change in licensing laws coming - currently, houses with three or more storeys and five or more occupants need to have an HMO licence.  However, from 1st October all HMOs with five or more occupants will need to have an HMO licence. Hopefully this will mean proper regulation of poor landlords and deter anyone just wanting to make a quick financial return at the neighbourhood’s expense.

We care about the area and we want a mix of different types of accommodation in a road to create strong, balanced communities. We will continue to work hard, with residents, all year round on issues like these.

For more details, go to the Council website www.reading.gov.uk/hmo