ST ANDREANS are to be given their say on controversial plans to cap the number of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in the town’s historic centre.
The proposals — which councillors agreed to put out to consultation last month — have been described as “inept social engineering” by the St Andrews University Students’ Association.
But council officials say the St Andrews community has become “unbalanced” by the high proportion of students sharing flats in the town centre and have mooted a ban on further HMO licences in the conservation area.
They argue this will free up potentially affordable housing in the town for families.
The month-long consultation period began on Wednesday and will end on March 23.
A spokesperson for Fife Council said: “The policy proposes that HMOs requiring planning permission in the conservation area will not be supported and it will apply to new planning applications or proposals for change of use of existing properties only.
“It does not affect the availability and operation of HMOs already with the benefit of planning permission.
“By providing your comments and feedback you can help improve the final version of the document, which will help inform planning decisions on future proposals for HMOs in St Andrews.”
The plans prompted a furious response from Students’ Association president Owen Wilton, who said the issue could lead to the group fielding a student candidate in next year’s Fife Council elections.
He said: “Let’s be honest, these proposals are all about students.
“It doesn’t criticise us but it’s clear it is about us as we are the ones predominantly living in HMOs.
“This plan isn’t going to help families — they are going to be worse off.
“It will push the HMO market outside the centre of town where property is more affordable at the moment.”
However, St Andrews councillors Frances Melville and Bill Sangster were quick to point out that no decision on a ban has been taken, with Provost Melville writing in last week’s Citizen: “I should make it clear personally that I have not made any decision on this, as I respect the views of both points of the discussion.
“I wish to see all the points of view on this consultation document before I make any decision.”
The consultation can be viewed and completed online at www.fifedirect.org.uk/haveyoursay