THE LEADER of Warwick District Council has defended claims the authority is not doing enough to curb the ever-growing student population in Leamington.
Following Freedom of Information requests, South Leamington Area Residents (SoLAR) was alarmed to discover the number of Warwick University students living in the town had tripled from around 1,600 to more than 5,200 over the past 15 years.
The reason is down to the massive expansion of the university, but with most students choosing to set up term time home in the south Leamington area, it raised fears at the prospect of the area being overrun by students.
And while SoLAR said it did not object to having students in the area, they admitted it did have concerns about the impact the ‘uncontrolled’ and ‘unplanned’ growth could have.
The group sent an open letter to Warwick District Council leader Andrew Mobbs demanding action.
Responding to their concerns, Coun Mobbs maintained the council already worked with the university and the students on issues including anti-social behaviour, excessive noise and the growth in the number of houses of multiple occupancy (HMOs).
He explained this had led to the introduction of street marshalls, Street Pastors and new policy on changes of use of properties to HMOs.
Coun Mobbs confirmed the council was also planning to look at its services to see how better they could deal with issues.
He said: “We need to be realistic – people are free to choose to live where they want and for many students Leamington is their place of choice.
“If property owners decide to offer their property for rent to students there is a limit as to what the council can do directly.”
Coun Mobbs called on the council and the group to work with students and the university to help tackle the problem.
He added: “The university has been a great success for this area – it employs a huge number of people and its local spend runs into hundreds of millions of pounds.
“It is a key part of our local economy – the prosperity from which spreads to many people and businesses so we should not seek to undermine it but to celebrate it.
“I hope we can work together to positively tackle issues that people feel arise from the university.”
Earlier this year Warwick District Council gave the green light to plans for new accommodation to house 200 students alongside the Grand Union Canal.
And in 2012 Station House was built opposite the railway station providing purpose-built accommodation for some 400 students.
Turn to page 8 to read Coun Mobbs’ full response.