A summary of issues raised by Jesmond residents with Nick Brown MP and Cllr David Hardman and action being taken on these
Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs)
‘The concentration, quality and maintenance of HMOs in Jesmond can have detrimental effects on the wider area.’
Nick is working with South Jesmond Councillor David Hardman to ensure there is careful monitoring of the Article 4 Direction when it comes into effect from November. Nick has written to the Chief Executive of Newcastle City Council making the case for strengthening the rules on HMO consents to make sure we are minimising the adverse effects some HMOs can have on their neighbours.
Nick firmly believes that enforcing better standards and control will not only benefit the wider community, but tenants as well. Nick supports calls for greater licensing of HMOs as a way of driving up standards in the Private Rented Sector and, along with Councillor David Hardman, is exploring the innovative use of selective licensing in Byker as way of achieving this. Nick is keen to find out whether, after an evaluation, it has any potential application in Jesmond.
‘Many Letting Boards are becoming near permanent features. There are too many and they are detrimental to Jesmond’s appearance.’
Nick has written to the responsible Government Minister putting the case in support of the proposed Regulation 7 Direction to control letting boards and urging the Government to grant this application as it applies to Newcastle.
Nick has been looking at the scheme operating in areas of Leeds to control Letting Boards as a prospective model to use in Newcastle.
Nick is looking at primary legislation, or amending existing legislation, as a way of dealing with the problem. He is supporting an application for a Regulation 7 Direction for Newcastle if the City submit one.
Noise and Anti-social behaviour
‘Not enough is been done to address issues of noise and anti-social behaviour.’
Nick met with the Vice Chancellors of both Universities, raising this and stressing the effect it is having in certain neighbourhoods.
Nick has arranged to meet with the local Neighbourhood Police Inspector and the Newcastle Area Commander to raise the policing of anti-social behaviour.
Nick has raised the issue in his letter to the Chief Executive, asking for the Council’s assessment of the current Operation Oak scheme and making the case for its extension, as well as arranging to meet with Council Officers to discuss anti-social behaviour.
‘Being respectful and considerate of your neighbours and local area can make a real difference.’
Nick recognises the importance of good citizenship by all who live in the community. Students shouldn’t be blamed as the root of all problems and that the vast majority are considerate citizens who are an asset to their community. The Universities in particular have a wealth of information and guidance on ‘good neighbourliness’. The key issue is in getting the message across to those who are disrespectful of others.
HMOs and Council Tax Exemption
‘It is unfair that some HMOs do not pay any council tax at all.’
Nick looked into this issue and recognises that it is a large concern for many who live in areas of high HMO concentrations. It is a difficult policy area to address since in many cases either the tenant or the landlord does pay council tax, depending on the nature of the tenancy contract. The exemption to pay comes when a property is occupied only by full-time students. A Government response to this issue in 2007 stated ‘the Government has no plans to make owners of HMOs liable for business rates. To do so would mean treating them differently from other domestic property’. As such it would be difficult to implement many of the suggested proposals. Nick does not support charging full time students council tax, which in many cases could end up costing the taxpayer more in associated Council tax and Housing benefit payments, which students are currently not eligible to claim.
‘Excessive drinking is often the root cause of disturbances in Jesmond.’
Nick has written to the relevant Government Minister querying the scope provided through the Localism Bill for the restriction of licensed premises in an area and the rights community groups will have in putting their views and concerns across.
The late-night levy, a charge on licensed premises serving alcohol between midnight and six am, proposed in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, would have a minimal impact on Jesmond due to the closing times of many local licensed premises. This levy is designed to help contribute to the costs of policing and clean-up from alcohol related activity. Nick has written to the Government to see whether it would be possible to extend the scope of this levy.
Conservation of the Natural Environment
‘The preservation of our valued natural heritage in Newcastle is important to many residents.’
Nick is a longstanding supporter of conservation and environmental protection and fought a long battle in Parliament against the original draft of the Newcastle Town Moor Bill, which was designed to allow property development on the edge of the Town Moor.
Nick is strongly opposed to abandoning the present planning regime for Newcastle’s greenbelt.
Nick was concerned to hear of the ongoing pollution problems in the Ouseburn River. He contacted the City Council to find out what was being done on this and they have launched a full investigation with the Environment Agency and will keep Nick informed.