There have been calls for the University of Ulster to draw a student housing exclusion zone around residential areas of inner city North Belfast to prevent the area becoming another Holyland. The university is moving its Jordanstown campus to a £250 million campus at York Street which will house 15,000 full and part-time students and staff.
On Monday night senior figures from the university met with local community representatives, politicians and residents to discuss the plans and address concerns that residents have.
Frank Dempsey, Chairman of Carrick Hill Residents Association, said the “open and frank” discussion included a recommendation to the university to create a residential exclusion zone for areas like Carrick Hill, New Lodge and Sailortown, to prevent them becoming overrun by students.
The Holyland area of South Belfast has hit the headlines in recent years because of increasing anti-social behaviour by students from both Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.
“What was asked of the university was to draw an exclusion zone around residential areas and that way we wont have a repeat of the Holyland,” said Frank Dempsey.
“That would prevent it happening and it will mean that this university can come here and be the success that everybody wants it to be.
“There must not be a repeat of the Holyland here, because if that happens nobody wins – the community doesn’t win, students don’t win and the university doesn’t win.”
He said the university is now “well aware of the deep rooted concerns” of the people of North Belfast, not only regarding housing, but also parking, parades and job creation.
“What the people are asking for is quite simply that any group set up to monitor the development of the University of Ulster has local reps involved, not in a consultation capacity but a participation capacity. We don’t want to be there to make up numbers.”
A University of Ulster spokesman said the university valued the opportunity to engage with residents.
“Clearly, not all the issues raised at the meeting are issues which the University of Ulster can address. However the meeting afforded an opportunity for other organisations to listen to the wider concerns and to consider their response to the issues raised,” he said.
He added that the university is now looking at “the best mechanism for structured engagement with the community that lasts beyond the lifetime of the construction of the campus”.