By David Sapsted, The Daily Telegraph
A campaign group to stop residential areas in university towns being overrun by students is being formed by local authorities.
Councillors from university towns and cities across the country met in Nottingham last week "to take positive action to make sure that students and local communities can live together".
The councils fear that growing numbers of students are moving in to former family homes, upsetting the locals with noise, litter and parties.
"It is a big problem across many university towns and cities," said Mike Cole, Nottingham city council's student strategy manager. "You can have some areas where whole streets are taken over by students."
The conference, which attracted representatives from places such as Leeds, Bath, Canterbury, Peterborough and Leicester, agreed to begin lobbying MPs in a bid to get the Government to change the planning laws.
At present, councils are powerless to stop landlords converting family homes into dwellings for students.
In Nottingham, the pleasant suburb of Lenton has been transformed over the past two decades. Its Edwardian and Victorian properties no longer accommodate well-to-do families but students crammed into small flats.
Once-prim lawns outside the grand houses have been replaced by discarded furniture, drink cans and fast-food cartons. Local shops have closed, supplanted by take-aways and — more tellingly — agencies letting properties to the students.
Locals complain that they are kept awake by parties. Lenton Boulevard has been unofficially re-named The Strip after an Ibiza nightspot. Worse, with the students have come the burglars preying on their laptops, MP3 players and mobile phones.
It is estimated that, by 2009, there will be 42,000 full-time students in Nottingham.
In Lenton, it is claimed, they make up half the population.
Maya Fletcher, 53, has lived in Lenton since 1978.
"Until the late 1970s students lived in halls of residence or lodged with families, which made them part of the community," she said.
"But then the numbers increased and they had to find their own properties — and the speculators were quick to spot their opportunity.
"Most local families have long gone. And no families means no children, which in turn means no schools. That damages the balance of the community and makes it even harder for young families to set up here."
Two years ago, Mrs Fletcher helped form the Nottingham Action Group on Homes of Multi-Occupation, which aims to limit student accommodation. "We're putting together a strategy that allows planning regulations to cap the number of homes that can be converted in an area," she said.
Robert Howard, 62, a retired housing association manager, has seen Lenton change in 18 years.
"I don't blame the students," he said. "They have to live somewhere. But as a consequence, around 56 per cent of people living here are now students.
"The area is full of cowboys who squeeze five students into a semi and charge £55 each a week without spending a penny on the property."
However, many students like the idea of having their own areas and living "separately" from the locals.
Rachel Codd, 23, a final-year law and French student at the University of Nottingham, shares a rented Edwardian semi with two other girls.
"It's great to be in a street that's full of students," she said. "There are lots of parties and always someone to talk to. There are a few locals around here but I don't really speak to them.
"I can imagine them getting very annoyed with us at times, especially with the noise late at night. I try not to annoy them.
"I blame universities for not building enough accommodation for us — that's why we rely on the private sector."