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Wed. 31 May 2006

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Nightmare on student street

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Traffic cone: amusing
Traffic cone: amusing
The fancy dress party was in full swing. The alcohol consumption was as high as the volume on the stereo and the carpets and upholstery looked a little bit worse for wear, far earlier then any of the guests did. The night looked set to be a hit, that is until the next-door neighbour turned up in her dressing gown and slippers, absolutely furious with all the noise. The situation only escalated when she was asked: "What have you come dressed as, love?" At that moment Louise suspected that the real hit of the night would be a literal one.

Louise Matthews, a student at London's City University, remembers many nights like this one: "It was typical. At the time I just thought that that was how students were supposed to live and now when I think back, we must have been total nightmares to live next door to." Margaret Russell, a 49-year-old dinner lady from Swansea, would agree with this, after years of living next door to a student house in London. "We live in a fairly central location near to the university, shops and nightlife, so it is easy to see why students choose our street. Each year we have a new load that move in and so the cycle of pranks starts up again. I'm really not an old witch but I don't find loud music until all hours, traffic cones on my car, 'for sale' signs stuck in my lawn and 'beware guard dog' on my gate very amusing. And I'm sure most people would feel the same."

For many students moving away from home is the time when they let their hair down. They no longer have the authority of their parents and are free to behave exactly how they want, and excessive partying and drinking is quite often the result. Ben Whitmore, a business student from London, admits that sometimes the noise can get out of hand: "Yes, we do have parties but we usually let the neighbours know." Really, Ben? He admits: "Well, we started to, anyway. Now our parties always seem to be last minute. We do try not to be too noisy. We have had a few complaints but they've always been amicable and polite."

Most students move out of halls into private accommodation, especially in the second year of their study. For many residents, however, the annoyance of having student neighbours can be intense. When life becomes intolerable, many write to their local councils. Christine Glin, Environmental Health Officer for Enfield Borough Council, says, "We do get many complaints about noise. About 80 per cent of cases concern young people, but more often than not it's children who make the noise. Thankfully, we don't have a noticeable problem with students in this area."

So are people making a fuss about nothing? Landlord, Robert Palmer said: "I rent properties to students. In most cases, I've owned these properties for a while so I know the residents. If they have a problem they do usually come to me first. So I can sort it out. Sometimes it is just for ridiculous reasons like putting out the rubbish a day before it's due to be collected. But I have had to issue written warnings to some of my tenants in the past. I am careful with who I let to; I do prefer females although I know it's a sexist thing to say. In my experience I have had far fewer complaints and they tend to take more care with the property."

Maureen Goodman, who has a student daughter renting private accommodation in London, says: "I can see that for many people it is a problem, and I know I would strongly object to living next to a house of unruly students. I cringe when my daughter tells me stories of what they've been up to, but I don't know if it's more for their neighbours or for their landlord!"

So with the end of term well on the way, I suggest that those streets with student neighbours start battening down the hatches now. Parties are already on the drawing board – it's what student life is all about. Until some killjoy turns the music down.

Claire Bidmead is a second-year BA journalism student at City University
Relevant Information
City University
http://www.city.ac.uk

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