Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The 'Lentonisation' of Beeston by landlords and goodbye to Gourmet Delights

Evidence (like the signs above over shops on Beeston High Road) and experience tell me that private landlords are in the process of doing to Beeston what they did to Lenton and it all begins with students wanting to live away from the campus, preferably with just a few friends, in a house. An innocent enough ambition in itself, but it is one which takes an established mixed/balanced community and turns it into a ghetto.

It was the mid-1980s when Thatcher made it easy
for universities like Nottingham and Trent to expand rapidly and this continues apace. Back then residents like myself saw the consequences and argued that all student accommodation in the community should be registered and the number of student properties in any road limited to 25%. This level still results in 50% or more of the residents being students and contributing to the destruction of the community so many want to be part of. Sad to say few listened and the City Council and the two city universities ignored us. We won a few fights along the way, but it was others, who took a harder line when it came to students, who finally won the day resulting in Nottingham City Council introducing rules in 2013 requiring any shared property with three or more tenants/occupants to be registered as a house in multi-occupation (HMO) and banning more HMOs in many parts of the city, including Lenton and Radford (Broxtowe Borough Council presently sets the HMO test at six sharing a house, but appears to have no enforcement plan).

Talk to students and their representatives and they, for the most part, understand this. Beeston can prevent its "Lentonisation' if it chooses to.

This is not a new claim or observation by me and I am not the first to make it. What I probably do have is more experience and understanding of the challenges Beeston faces, which left unchecked will see the town losing many of its shops, many being turned into student accommodation. It happened in Lenton, Radford and Hyson Green in the city and can happen here.

In Lenton, where I was a community activist for the best part of thirty-five years, we saw road after road bought up by private landlords who happily paid more for a house than any owner-occupier ever would or could. Why? Because they counted the number of rooms they could turn into bedrooms and this almost always including one, if not two, of the ground floor living rooms. This way they could easily fit 4, 5, 6, even more students into the house.

My 2015 map when I am able to update it will show the onward march of council tax exempt properties in Beeston. Of this fact I am sure. The signs on the streets I walk along tell me this.

I use the word 'student', although the official term which is important here is 'full-time education'. I think the latter is a nicety. Students do not have to pay council tax on the property/room they rent because properties occupied exclusively by those in 'full-time education' do not have to pay council tax.

This exemption currently reduces the council tax collected in Broxtowe by £950,000. This figure was provided by the Borough Council to a Beeston councillor. In the side column you will find a page devoted to this topic which I compiled last year based on the information available at the time. Last year 84% of Broxtowe's council tax exempt properties were in Beeston. I am sure the percentage is now higher and I am currently waiting for this information to be provided, but at 84%, the cost, you can argue to Beeston is £798,000!

When landlords set the rents they charge students the fact that the student occupant does not have to pay council tax becomes part of the calculation used to set the rent. This way the landlord can charge a slightly higher rent and increase his/her profits in the process.

Once Beeston had a few established estate agents, now they are everywhere and they are like the private landlords they feed on. The lucky make fat profits and can pay higher rents and business rates. Established businesses are forced to close because rents go up and business rates rise as well. And it is the demise of one such local business which prompts this post. The loss of a café may seem of itself of no importance to anyone bar the staff who lose their jobs and the regular customers who see it as an extension of their home — for that is what a good café can become.

I will leave you with the evidence and I will not be alone in mourning its passing. The question is 'Do you?'

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