Jesmond residents "fear" student residency

Representitives from Newcastle's Community Unity board talk to The Courier about changing Jesmond for the better

multiple writers
23rd November 2021
Image: Meg Howe
The return to 'normal life', after an academic year like no other, brings with it the return of the Jesmond buzz. The merge of two somewhat different groups of people once again means that the sense of community shifts. As many Newcastle University students return to Jesmond, a place they feel happy to call home, it is time to bridge the gap between permanent and non-permanent residents?

Written by Ruby Story-Dartford and Meg Howe

Newcastle University’s Deputy Registrar, Marc Lintern is working to create more community-based schemes to bring Jesmond residents together following fractured relations throughout the Pandemic last year.

Lintern and many permanent residents of Jesmond, are keen to rebuild harmony between residents and non-residents in the popular student suburb. The combination of Covid and lockdown restrictions led to a spike in anti-social behaviour amongst students in Jesmond last year, creating a further divide between both groups. However, Ward Councillors wish to connect with students living in the area in order to bridge this infamous divide.

Lintern understands that there are struggles living alongside students, stating that "students live very different lives to residents''

Speaking to North Jesmond Councillors, Stella Postlethwaite and Tanya Prestwell, it is clear that their aim is to unite all residents through a number of community schemes. Highlighting that Ward meetings are open to all residents, Stella and Tanya indicate that the aim is to "create connections between community and student groups".

Lintern understands that there are struggles living alongside students, stating that "students live very different lives to residents''. However, further action to reunite both communities in Jesmond was made a high priority, as he claims that "residents [have been] in tears over the summer".

Yet, with the lifting of lockdown restrictions, many expect this academic term will be different. With more students choosing to return to nightlife in town, as opposed to house parties. With Operation Oak set to be scrapped, Lintern told The Courier, "I hope this year will be easier" and recognises how hard the restrictions were upon both residents and non-student residents last term.

Similarly, Stella and Tanya describe anti-social behaviour during the 2020/21 academic year to be "uniquely bad", highlighting the hope that bridges can be built now that life is easier for everyone living in the area.

Lintern intends to create a space where "residents can offer both a welcome to Jesmond, and also a reminder that this is a residential area". To accomplish this, Lintern has suggested students, "get to know their neighbours", alongside informing residents on upcoming parties, maintaining bin waste and participating in volunteer work within the community. Stella and Tanya reinforced this, stating that there should be "mutual respect" between all residents, in order to improve the sense of community.

Alongside Marc Lintern and the Ward Councillors, NUSU's Athletic Union Officer, Fergus Mainland, has been working with Newcastle City Council to unite the community to which he said, "last year for students was particularly tough", in reference to numerous lockdowns which saw students forced to remain in Jesmond for months on end.

Once a student and a Jesmond resident himself, Mainland recognises the challenges faced by students moving to residential areas. In order to encourage the community to work as a collective, Mainland states, "we’re moving away from this idea of students and residents".

He has also been in talks with the council for improvements to the City Council website to make it more accessible for students moving to Jesmond, to make sure they are "treated in the same way you treat a resident". Improvements to the Newcastle City Council website include information surrounding designated bin days, further information regarding council tax resources, and support for students when reporting landlords. Mainland hopes that "students can see the council are looking out for their interests as well".

The Anti-Social Behaviour in Jesmond group beleive that divisions are created as students have "no common sense"

Newcastle University lecturer and Jesmond resident John Burn highlighted the need for students and residents to work together for the suburb to thrive. In reference to the importance of the student community, Burn said, "if all the residents left, the facilities would go with them, the shops on Acorn Road, Jules, the library, the pool". Having lived in the student hotspot for several decades, when it comes to student behaviour, the lecturer said, "it takes a little bit of vinegar to spoil milk". A collective feeling amongst residents, as many feel the actions of a few students tarnish the reputation of all.

However, not all non-student residents believe that harmony can be achieved so easily. Residents Coralie and Jonathan, members of the ‘End Anti-Social Behaviour in Jesmond’ group, believe that non-student residents are the “backbone of the community”. They believe that divisons in the community are created as student residents (who they believe should be referred to as non-permanent residents) have "no common sense". They say that this prevents them from respecting the fact that non-student residents have lives that differ from their own. Coralie and Jonathan believe that if students were able to use their common sense, then unity within the community could be successfully achieved.

Whilst they do not believe in “big gestures”, Coralie and Jonathan believe that students should “take pride in the area”, by looking after their properties and respecting their neighbours. 

Describing the Jesmond community, Coralie and Jonathan acknowledge the diversity that is created through bringing a large variety of people together. However, they believe that the families in the community should be acknowledged, so that their "children can grow up safely".

However, Lintern is keen to change this view as he insists, “the residents want to reach out and know their neighbours”, recognising the need for change. When questioned upon the future of Jesmond he said, “we'll be having the same debates in ten years”. The reality is that residents and non-student residents will be forced to unite, given the popularity of the suburb, therefore, there is no choice but to work in harmony.

Newcastle student Samuel Bunting commented: “as a collective, students are not bad people, certain people do tarnish our reputation in Jesmond, we do recognise the importance of the residents, without them, Jesmond wouldn’t be Jesmond”.

Lintern, the Ward Councillors and non-student residents believe that a united community can effectively be created through tolerance; mutual respect; and being considerate of living amongst a wide variety of people who live very different lives.

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