Falmouth is a great place to live and we need to ensure that everyone continues to enjoy our town and environment. We are blessed to have a diverse economy – tourism and festivals, the Docks as well as our universities.
Let’s be clear, the universities have brought new jobs and prosperity to many in Falmouth but at a cost. Family housing has been lost and many have been forced out of our town. There can be noise and disruption. Students prefer to be in our bustling and lively town but some keep somewhat different hours to the rest of us!
We all know families who have been priced out or even evicted by landlords to make way for Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs). Many young Falmouth people cannot afford to live in their own town.
My fear is that expansion of the universities – necessary for Falmouth University as tuition fees are now their main income – will be at the town’s expense.
My ward of Smithick is in the heart of the student community. When I was elected I realised we needed to preserve a balance between town and students which was why I asked Falmouth Town Council (FTC) to let me seek an Article 4 to restrict the number of HMOs. We also needed to raise the quality of some of the student housing as it was poor.
Cornwall Council was firmly opposed – due to the cost. It took a year but I finally persuaded them and FTC was asked to do a Neighbourhood Plan.
FTC have been working on this ever since. 1300 local people responded to our consultation – overwhelmingly wanting a diverse town not dominated by any one group. People wanted pedestrianisation through the centre, to see more of the harbour and for our green spaces around the coast to be protected from inappropriate development.
Since then a team of people have been working to produce a plan to support the Article 4 to ensure we all have good housing, people are not pushed out of town and that Falmouth can continue to thrive.
University expansion must be managed with the majority of students in accommodation on campus. Even the student body now oppose expansion.
If planning permission is given then the impact on local people must be reduced. Cornwall Council must seek to ensure student numbers are monitored, that more is done to reduce the noise and disruption and the cost must not only fall on FTC. Overall the universities must work with the town
It is not good enough to say students like to live in Falmouth – the people of Falmouth also want to live in Falmouth!
Cllr Candy Atherton
Labour Councillor for Falmouth Smithick on Cornwall Council and Falmouth Town - lead member on the Neighbourhood Plan