Local residents attempt to “drive students out” of St Andrews

Local residents want to extend the HMO ban beyond the town centre

Residents of St Andrews are trying to extend the ban on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) beyond the town centre.

An HMO licence is required for properties occupied by three or more unrelated persons. They are important for student flats as they increase the protection of HMO tenants and their neighbours by making sure accommodation is safe, well managed and of good quality. An HMO property may not be lawfully occupied without a licence.

A HMO ban within the centre of town has existed since June 2011 in an attempt to prevent the town centre becoming a “student enclave.” This means that no new HMO licences will be granted within the town centre.

Last month, a controversial HMO at a property on Pipeland road passed despite a number of objections from residents. The application was for a six-person HMO and although it was outside the town centre, some members of the local community argued that the property was not suitable for students.

One objection from Lynsey Martin said: “These properties are designed as family homes and not as student flats. We are concerned about noise levels very close to our home. There could also be a problem with parking as many students now have cars.

“We are happy to see the house being developed and upgraded and have no problem in it being used as a family home. We do, however, want to lodge an appeal against awarding this property an HMO licence. We have nothing against students at all but feel there are plenty of more suitable areas for student accommodation.”

Local residents Mr and Mrs Alexander also disagreed with the HMO. They argued: “Students, by definition, are transient tenants. Many have little or no empathy for the way of life of their immediate neighbourhood. This is disquieting for residents.

“During previous student lets, there were reported instances of unruly and aggravating behaviour. Sadly, those memories remain real and unnerving to many neighbours today.

“We certainly do empathise with the students. They too have their lives to lead. They need space and freedom to express themselves, have parties etc… but totally inappropriate in this particular location. We earnestly request that you reject this HMO application.”

Falkland councillor David MacDiarmid moved to reject the application as he argued that there is an overprovision of HMOs in the area. There are 686 such properties in the town-with more than half outwith the central belt.

The application went through, however, without a vote as the council had no policy in place. Residents and members of the community council are now attempting to extend the ban beyond the town centre.

One of the objectors to the application, John Ferguson, argued:“Our community of 31 houses in Livingstone Crescent and Place has five HMOs and another student let, with yet another HMO hearing in September.

“We are further threatened by a development in Whitehill Terrace, to introduce another six students to an address backing onto Livingstone Place.

“Nelson Street, which backs on to Livingstone Crescent, has only four permanent residents out of 31 dwellings, and King Street, which is the extension of the Place, is reduced to its last owner-occupier. Must we fiddle while Rome burns?”

Local councillor and regulation and licensing committee member Dorothea Morrison said on Tuesday that reports were currently being prepared by the St Andrews Housing Commission.

She said argued that there should a temporary embargo on HMOs in the area until the reports have been released and the Council have produced a concrete policy.

She commented: “We have to find the right balance. Students always think it is an anti-student policy. It is not. There needs to be some thought in the town over the percentage of permanent residents and those staying on a short term basis. We have to have a sustainable community.”

The town centre HMO ban in 2011 invoked much criticism from the Students’ Association, which labelled it a “deliberate steps to segregate students and the community.”

This new attempt to extend it has not been met favourably by president of the Students’ Association Chloe Hill, who argued that finding accommodation in St Andrews is already competitive and a HMO cap across the town may make this process more difficult for students.

She commented: “Students have been an important part of this town’s community for 600 years, and like the other members of the community they need somewhere to live.

“To attempt to block HMO licences, not only in the centre of town, but also further out is an obvious move to drive students out.

“We will do everything possible to make the case for students and the need for HMO licences to ensure they can live in safe, private accommodation.”

Viewpoint: Elliot Davies on accommodation


  1. What evidence is there that ‘many’ students now own cars? I was certainly under the impression that car ownership was lower among our student population than for the wider population of the town, and also that car ownership amongst students had fallen in recent years.

  2. “Must we fiddle while Rome burns?” – a staggering piece of hyperbole to describe living near some students. That Rome of theirs would be little more than an exaggerated fishing village without 600 years of student tenants. If any other social group was forced to keep to a certain area, there would be a national outcry, and rightly so.

    • Of course, you ignore the fact that many residents of St Andrews would be quite happy to live in “an exaggerated fishing village”. I am not sayng the council HMO policy is right, but to suggest that the university somehow improves life for many of the residents is simply not true.

  3. Wow, this is shocking.

    Are students forcibly removing residents from their homes? Killing residents and taking possession of someone else’s land?

    No. People are freely renting out their homes to students.

  4. In my second year I lived in the Badlands and my neighbours included 8 people living illegally in a 2 bedroom flat, someone who frequently held loud parties (party guests would yell at me in the hall), and a woman who held weekly booze-y karaoke parties, had loud sex at all hours, let her kid cry for hours in the middle of the nigh (yes, this woman had a small child). We on the other hand never even once got any complaints. In third year I lived above 2 students and the worst it got was one of them would play acoustic guitar sometimes. Getting rid of students doesn’t mean you won’t have bad neighbours. And honestly, where else are we going to live?

  5. It’s crazy what we have to put up with given the extortionate rents we pay. I have friends who live in sub-standard, freezing, mouldy houses in St Andrews and pay exceedingly more than friends pay for beautiful apartments in Glasgow and Edinburgh. More focus must be placed on giving students residents actual power in town – as well as gown – proceedings.

  6. Chloe Hill’s response is frankly a bit of a disgrace. It totally misrepresents the situation. The headline here is also an unnecessary attempt to drive a wedge between town and gown.

    First, there is not a HMO ban in the centre of town, but a ban on NEW ones. Students wouldn’t be forced out of town by any of these rules, existing or proposed. There just won’t be a lot MORE properties becoming available. Obviously, that’s hard, given the housing situation in the Uni, but it’s very, very different.

    As it happens, I don’t support a ban on HMOs. But would I be upset if 6 rowdy students moved in next door? Well, yes.

    Wait, but surely all students aren’t like that? Well, all locals aren’t mad eejits chasing students out of town with pitchforks either. Some locals hate students; some students are disrespectful and noisy. Neither the locals as a whole nor the students as a whole should be tarred with the same brush as the worst of them. Articles like this that categorise either group as a single, coherent, decision-making entity are a disservice to all involved.

    I studied here for fourteen years; I work at the Uni. About 99% of my friends are or were students here. I know what it feels like to queue for flat lists and all the rest of it. I get it. But it’s not the fault of the ‘locals’. They are quite entitled to want to live next door to quiet old couples, just as students are quite entitled to want to find accommodation. Where the balance should be drawn I don’t know, but it’s not fundamentally unreasonable that people should want to live in quiet streets.

    Local people are not ‘the locals’ – some broadly defined group that think alike – they are people. There is no such thing as a ‘clear attempt to segregate students from the rest of the community’ (an unbelievably presumptuous phrasing) – there are merely a few individuals who don’t want students next door. Some of them will likely go further and decide they don’t want students anywhere near them if possible. But that doesn’t make them representative of the ‘locals’.

    Think back to your home town, and see if you can imagine any of your neighbours saying stupid things if a group of six 18-yr-olds moved in next door. Think a little bit about whether some of these people might even have legitimate complaints. I’m not saying that the complaints should be treated seriously, necessarily, but I’d be amazed if in a town this size we *didn’t* find a bunch of people who were sufficiently annoyed with their neighbours to make the kind of comments reported in the article. That’s no reason for a journalist to present the information in this outrageously biassed way.

    Students are an intelligent bunch. I hope they’re intelligent enough to see both sides of this argument. Unlike Chloe. This is over-emotional, factually misleading nonsense.

    • Factually misleading nonsense? Over-emotional? Quote one statement she made that qualifies as overemotional or factually misleading.

      We can all agree that the residential situation in St Andrews is less than perfect. That permanent residents and students alike deserve better town planning and the chance to live freely in areas which meet their needs. However, a blanket ban on new HMOs across the town is not an approach which delivers on these aims (and, by the way, ‘HMO ban’ was not a term created nor pioneered by the Students Association). Rather, it perpetuates and drives destructive narratives about the effect of ‘students’ on a town belonging to another group (‘locals’).

      And, although I really shouldn’t need to point it out, an HMO ban will not just adversely effect students. It drives students further out into more residential areas and drives up rents and housing prices. For everyone.

      • The video begins with ‘residents are trying to drive students out of st andrews’. It also says ‘total HMO ban’ which is flat out untrue – it’s a ban on new ones. We can argue about who started misusing the term first, but that doesn’t mean a reporter can choose to do so when explaining the situation. Wait, but Chloe didn’t say that herself? OK, how about ‘Quite clearly an attempt to segregate students’? That is not factual in any way. And it’s undeniably emotive. Segregate? Come on… As I said, I don’t agree with the ban on new HMOs. But there is no possible way of looking at this as an attempt at ‘segregation’ – that’s is complete and utter nonsense. And a singularly unhelpful contribution to the debate.

  7. The new HMO ban policy is ridiculous and totally unfair. Firstly we should bear in mind that students are massive contributors to the town in so many ways, not least economically. The fact is that a lot of St Andrews students have plenty of money, so banning new HMOs I suspect will simply lead them to rent out the same houses in smaller groups, paying more. This is regressive and punishes poor students but it also means more housing stock is needed for the same number of students – which makes the existing problem worse.

    Finally the idea that a HMO ban somehow ‘demographically equilibriates’ the town centres population is nonsense. Even if you could remove demand from students for flats in the town centre (which as I have said above is unlikely) these flats would be bought by ‘outsiders’ and used for four weeks a year as a holiday cottage in all probability. The policy is totally flawed and speaks shamefully of the council.

  8. It’s interesting to see that there seems to be no mention of the real driving factor behind this problem – that is, the over-expansion by the university. When I first started at St Andrews the university proudly boasted that every student who wanted to stay in a hall of residence could be accommodated. Not every student did and those who lived in town flats paid reasonable rents because there was not the demand on limited spaces. And what did the university do? Forced through a rapid expansion of students numbers seemingly without a thought as to where these students would live and at the same time they sold off halls and other buildings used as student residences. That resulted in a huge increase in the cost of private rents in town. Not just student rents but all rents. Then there was the vogue for people buying-to-let – that pushed up prices thoughout the town to the point where locals simply cannot afford to either buy or rent. That is the real reason why people are opposed to HMOs – they are evidence of the loss of their own town.

      • Indeed. What an insightful comment. There is a world of difference between a planned expansion and one born in chaos. It might have been an idea for the university to give some thought to where all the students they were going to admit were going to live.

  9. Last year it was the sea gulls. This year the target is the students. Next year – fish?. Does anyone own a town in this manner?

    Unless someone bought property many many years ago – it does seem odd to now complain about the student influence in town that has been here 600 years!

    • Or – more accurately – they could remember back the 20 years or so when the student population was less than half it is now.

      • Sounds – so much of ‘Not in my back yard’! After all St Andrews is indeed part of Scotland and education is now a central part of that economy. Fixed thinking – all about how we gain( as one gains) and our own self-interest. Perhaps NIMBY seems more evident in this town than anywhere else in Scotland. I wonder why?

    • You’re not the first person to point this out to me! I believe it depends on where you are from, although the majority of people pronounce it ‘aitch’ including my father (who was extremely disappointed in my pronunciation) I still stand by ‘haitch’ as a legitimate pronunciation of H.

      Personally I think that it might be a conspiracy by the government to spark a debate on the pronunciation of H as they should really be called RMOs. 😉


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