Rector Catherine Stihler declined the opportunity to support the current ban on new House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) licenses within the town centre, under questioning from local councillors last night.
Arguing from the student perspective of the long running ‘town versus gown’ debate, Ms Stihler told the St Andrews Community Council that “I do have concerns about the purpose of the HMO ban… it has to be seriously looked at.”
Community Council chairman Howard Greenwell said that Ms Stihler’s invitation to appear in front of the Community Council was at least in part due to comments she had made to the media when appointed Rector last year. She said at the time that one of her priorities was to lobby for an “alleviating (of) the HMO ban”. These comments had concerned the councillors, who wanted to present their opinions to the Rector face to face.
In particular, community councillor Penny Uprichard said that Ms Stihler was “starting at the wrong end.” However, Miss Uprichard went on to express sympathy for the housing issues which students face and told a story of how her relatives had in the past taken in students to live in their homes.
Ms Stihler went on to say that there are “issues of commonality that we can work on,” in particular the dampness found in student properties and its possible health effects.
A HMO ban within the centre of town has existed since June 2011. This means that no new HMO licences will be granted within the town centre.
There have also been further attempts to extend the ban outside of the town centre.
The council also discussed the Rector’s attitude to Raisin Weekend. Mr Greenwell said that the current situation, especially on Raisin Sunday, is “a little bit too rowdy for a lot of people” and explained that in the 1970s, the only drinking that took place was from 6:30pm to 10pm when the pubs were open.
In response, Ms Stihler paid tribute to the work of safety staff from the University and revealed that “I will be out helping this year”, extending the same invite to the community councillors.