'Article 4 is not perfect - but it's a start'

Canterbury City Councillors voted to introduce a new directive, known as Article 4, in a bid to limit areas where there are a lot of shared houses.

The move will come into force from February and was agreed at a meeting of the full council on October 1.

Cllr Oliver Fawcett, who represents Barton ward, was among those who spoke in favour of the change and said although it was not perfect, it would start to tackle the problems that exist between students and permanent residents.

Here is the full text of his speech:

Today we are asked to discuss the future of the Article 4 direction which will mean all properties within the district seeking to convert into a HMO will require planning permission.

If passed, this policy will see a cap put in place to limit the number of HMO properties within a certain area or neighbourhood to 10%. It is proposed that some leeway should be given to areas which are already predominantly HMO properties so residents or landlords who wish to sell their non-HMO properties can do so.

Whilst I fully support this proposal and will be voting in favour of it here tonight, and I believe it is a great way of formally recognising and starting to tackle the problems that exist between the residential and student populations of the district, I would like some thought to be given to the following:

On its own, does this do enough? I think we can all agree that education locally is an integral part of this district’s industry and furthermore, its economy. But with the potential expansion of our universities and colleges (as seen in today’s local paper) comes a growing demand on the already over-stretched housing availability, suitability and quality locally. Not just for the students and young professionals; but also for families and older residents as well. We must ask ourselves, not what are the risks if we do vote in favour of this tonight, but instead, what are the risks if we don’t?

One risk is that local residents are forced out of the city in order to seek medium to higher-paid jobs, and those coming in are looking for part-time/casual work. And those who do seek higher-paid employment outside of the city can barely afford to live in it, because of the housing crisis we are facing. Where does that leave anyone who may be in lower-paid employment? Again, we must ask ourselves, do our local residents, professionals or students deserve this; especially when we already see signs of this happening? We have a duty of care to all residents so it is important that we ask ourselves these questions.

There are already tales of tension between students and non-students over Freshers’ Week parties and concerns over noise and it is clear that some action is needed.

I don’t pretend to know all the answers. But I would like the issues to be explored, along with alternative or additional options that could be put in place. That, together with the valuable feedback from my colleagues on the Student Impact Review team, will give us the best chance of finding solutions that work for everyone who lives in our city.

So I ask members here tonight to think about the future of the city and the wider district and to vote in favour of the Article 4 Direction, to formally begin the process of tackling the problems that we all recognise, so that together we can start to build more sustainable and cohesive communities for everyone.