Anger and relief over St Andrews HMO ban

Councillor Frances Melville LD
Councillor Frances Melville LD
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FIFE Council has agreed to refuse planning permission for future House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) applications in the centre of St Andrews.

The decision was reached at a meeting of the north east Fife area committee on Wednesday where councillors voted 8 - 7 in favour of the new measures.

The issue of HMOs has proved divisive since the policy was first proposed and some members of the public had to be turned away from the meeting after all the seats were taken up early.

In the end, local councillors were split 50-50 at the vote.

Provost Frances Melville and Bill Sangster voted against the policy arguing that the whole town had to be taken into consideration when deciding on HMO policy.

Councillor Sangster told the meeting he believed the new Private Rented Housing bill introduced earlier this year at the Scottish Parliament would be able to deal with any issues in relation to HMOs.

Fellow St Andrews’ councillors Dorothea Morrison and Robin Waterston voted for the ban.

Councillor Morrison argued that all properties in the town centre would become student occupied if the policy was not adopted.

“Yes we do need students, but we need real people too,” she told the meeting.

Before the discussion began, representations were made to the committee by the Preservation Trust, the Confederation of St Andrews Residents Association and the Students Association.

Owen Wilton, president of the association, said that despite St Andrews University housing more of its own students than any other university in the UK, rented accommodation within the private sector was still hard to find.

He told the meeting that restricting the amount of HMOs in the centre of town “would disperse students to the periphery of the town, to areas that are more suited for families.”

After a lengthy discussion the policy was put to a vote and - despite the council’s own report recommending that the new policy should not be adopted - councillors voted narrowly in favour of the measures.

Afterwards, David Middleton of the St Andrews Preservation Trust told the Citizen he was happy that the committee’s decision.

“I think this decision reflects social justice,” he said.

“I’m pleased with the outcome. It will give St Andrews some breathing space and the deterioration of the centre of the town can be halted.”