Sunday, November 29, 2009

Action meeting on The Forum

On Thursday night I attended a meeting held by the Tiverton Estate Residents' Action Group. The meeting of minds was called to try to get to grips with problems associated with The Forum, the ARU student accommodation block converted from the old Tiverton House residential home.

Coleridge Conservatives were represented by me on the panel, in place of Cllr Howell (who was representing the Conservatives in a public debate on student funding by prior arrangement) and also by Tim Haire, who has been working on this issue.

The panel included three city council officers, community beat sergeant Sgt Mark Kathro and a PCSO - I was impressed to see their commitment to the situation, which after all must be occupying a significant amount of their weekly work.

Sadly Anglia Ruskin University had refused to send someone to contribute to the meeting. We are of the view that proper engagement by the university with residents is essential to solving the problems at the site. ARU had already refused a request by Coleridge Conservatives for a meeting. It did transpire that ARU had met with council officers, but while this news was welcome, they need to be prepared to talk with residents and councillors.

Mr Ellis Hall of the Tiverton Estate Resident's Action Group outlined problems facing the community around Tiverton Way, divided into:
  • road congestion
  • litter and refuse
  • lack of student facilities
  • lack of guidelines & information for students
  • lack of student supervision
  • noise and sleep disturbance
It is crystal clear to anyone who was at this meeting, or prior meetings concerning the planning situation prior to conversion, that the residents around Tiverton Way welcome the students at The Forum and wish to have good community relations. No-one can accuse residents of scapegoating students; there is no 'fuddy duddy' reaction going on, it is just that a minority of students seem to be behaving without regard to their fellow students and residents.

To me it seems that the solution must involve annual briefings for students, the presence of senior students (non-first year, preferrably postgraduate, students who oversee their peers) in the building and the presence of a couple of student representatives on a consultative committee with other local residents.

We hope that ARU will start to engage with councillors and residents to solve this problem. Well done to the action group for their thorough work and for taking a balanced and non-confrontational approach.

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