Garbage at the Whitley Park Lane bus stop

Garbage at the Whitley Park Lane bus stop

People living near the University of Reading (UoR) think that the university and its students are causing parking problems, damaging local communities by demanding more houses in multiple occupation (HMOs), littering and causing late-night disturbances. The Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association (NARA) have released the analysis of a consultation they ran this year to see what residents really thought about living next to the University.

NARA obtained 253 responses to their survey. The top five problems residents identified as being significant or fairly significant are listed in the table below, along with the number and percentage of respondents who identified with the problem. Full details and caveats on interpreting the data are available in the consultation report, which includes a map of the postcodes of the respondents.

IssueSignificant or fairly significant problem
NumberPercentage
Parking14558
HMOs14357
Litter14859
Late night disturbances12851
Alcohol misuse or public drunkenness10140

Source: NARA UoR neighbourhood survey, November 2019.

The NARA consultation also identified low volume but high offence issues such as students urinating in public. Only a few respondents complained about this, but they were distressed about it happening repeatedly outside their homes.

One of the consultation respondents commented:

I don’t think it is about the location of the accommodation, it is about how it is managed. Currently the management is negligent in my view – local residents are being tortured by the students and the authorities are facilitating it.

The Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association

“I have lived here for 30 years and would love to be able to remain in this area,” said NARA chair Simone Illger. “It’s important that the university works in conjunction with the local community to tackle those issues over which it has some control.”

Simone Illger explained that NARA had run the consultation because the UoR had consulted on the development of their own strategy in May 2019.

[They] asked questions which attempted to elicit responses to confirm the image the UoR would like to convey, not what is actually going on,” said Simone Illger. “NARA decided to design and conduct its own consultation to obtain views from residents who live close to the University to ensure that the views of the local community are fairly and objectively represented.”

In their report, NARA criticised the university’s distant and corporate approach to community relations, as well as the failure of the local authority or police to deal with problems:

The university fails to take account of community views and seems uncaring. They are interested only in making a profit. There is a combined failure of Reading [Borough] Council, the university and [Thames Valley] Police to work together to resolve the issues with nobody prepared to take responsibility, so issues [are] left unchecked.

The NARA consultation also identified university facilities that neighbouring residents used and enjoyed; these included the grounds, including the Harris Garden, as well as cultural events such as films, theatre, music and art shows. There was also appreciation for the employment opportunities the university offered.

NARA say that the UoR should engage meaningfully with the local community and that the results from this consultation could inform future university development and help manage the increasing student population.

The response from the university

We asked the UoR if they recognised the distress that some student behaviour is causing to residents, the damaging effect of growing demand for HMOs and takeaways is having on neighbourhoods and if the UoR values community relations with neighbouring residents. The university responded with a statement:

The university is proud to be part of Reading and we are grateful for the support of our neighbours. This helps us to contribute towards the success of our town, by creating jobs, training teachers, and through the commitment of students, who last year contributed 12,000 of volunteer hours to projects across the area, for example.

We are grateful for residents’ views, and welcome opportunities to work with community groups on tackling joint issues in our area. We are already working closely with key partners at the council, police and other local bodies to address issues that this report identifies.


Links
  1. UoR community relations
  2. NARA consultation results
  3. Northcourt Avenue asks if Reading University is a good neighbour.
  4. The changing nature of Christchurch Green
  5. Rowdy university students ‘damage mental health’ of neighbours
  6. Reading University may fund new PCSOs to deal with student misbehaviour
  7. NARA on the Whitley Pump
  8. UoR on the Whitley Pump