Dear Garden Quarter…

This post is written in response to an article posted on the Chester Chronicle website on the 26th November this year, whereby students living in and around Garden Quarter came under fire once again.

I advise reading the article first, for some context, before continuing to amuse yourself with my response.

Dear Residents of Garden Quarter,

I have a terrible confession to make to you all. I am a student, and I am one of ‘them’ living in the area. I have lived very close to the University for the duration of my course, and have witnessed the growing tensions between GQ Residents and the student community for quite some time.
I’m afraid this article has been the final straw to break the camel’s back.
It has to stop.

First of all, let me be clear on the fact that I, in no way, condone my fellow students’ rowdiness or any other form of anti-social behaviour they might partake in, but that doesn’t excuse the growing hostilities or the outright denial that the student community contributes anything towards Chester’s idyllic city image.

The fact is the University of Chester is growing every year; more and more potential students are falling in love with the courses, the campus and the city, which means they need a place to live, like everyone else.

Geographically, Garden Quarter is conveniently close to Chester Campus. If you walked over to Kingsway Campus you would find an equally large number of student let properties. I’m sure the situation is the same in Warrington and indeed every city boasting a University (which is quite a large portion of the UK). Plans and proposals for a student village have been rejected; as have plans to build close to Telford’s Warehouse and the arguments have remained the same each time ‘There’s too many’ or ‘Garden Quarter is swarming with them’.

‘Them’ – as though students are separate from the rest of society.

Put yourself into the shoes of a first-year student who has been unable to get into halls because they live 28 miles away from Chester (the distance had to be upped 10 miles last year due to the increased demand for accommodation and shortage of rooms available, meaning more students had to go into private accommodation early). Say you don’t know the area at all, you’ve never lived away from home before and you’re worried about getting a place to live. Suddenly you find a room on Garden Lane or Bouverie Street, boasting it’s a stones-throw away from both Chester Campus and the City Centre. Can you really blame students for opting to move there?

Of course, I’m not suggesting the area should be completely exclusive to students. I’m merely saying it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to the GQ community.

I do understand your point about the noise. I live next door to a house that sounds much the same as the one in the article (I doubt it’s the same), and I also have the pleasure of hearing the societies walk up to town every Wednesday night bellowing all sorts of stupid chants (amongst other sources of noise, e.g. rowdy football fans watching FA Cup matches at the pub). It’s annoying for about 10 minutes and then I move on from it. I expect it from other students, though I don’t partake myself.
Last year my housemates and I contacted the Police and the Council to complain about the noise from next door, both passed the book on to each other and the issue remained unresolved for the rest of the year. How can we begin to deal with the issue of noisiness when the authorities refuse to acknowledge a responsibility in dealing with it?

The ‘University’s Economic Contribution’ to this city is enormous. Thousands of students move here every year, bringing student loans and overdrafts with them, decking out bedrooms and wardrobes without having their parents to tell them they’re wasting their money. Once they’ve spent their money they often end up looking for a job, meaning the nice girl who made your coffee in one of the many Costas in town, or the lad who helped you pick out some trainers the other day, or the person who will pull your pint the next time you’re in your favourite pub, they’re probably all students, or have been students studying at Chester. All contributing to the economy; helping deal with that influx of tourists over the summer and keeping things going in those awkward few weeks in September between the kids going back to school and the new students moving in to the city.

I’m not excusing antisocial behaviour, but I will say, we’ve all been young once. You’ve all probably thrown a couple of noisy house parties, walked down a street chanting some football song with your mates, got highly intoxicated at a nightclub and had to have your friends carry you home. These are experiences the vast majority of us can relate to.
In an ideal world everyone would be respectful to each other, but sadly it doesn’t work like that. Students make positive contributions to Garden Quarter and Chester every day, they go into the local schools to inspire pupils to dream big and go to university, they involve themselves in various community volunteering opportunities, they help to organise new events (e.g. Chester Pride) within Chester, giving tourists even more reasons to visit the city. With this in mind, why should a few bad apples spoil the whole bunch?

What I’m trying to say is that this idea that students are an infestation and a drain on the community isn’t very fair. Chester will probably become a permanent home for me, along with many other ex-students, and would hate to look back on my memories of university living tarnished with hostility from other residents.
Residents must realise that students aren’t second-class citizens, and Students need to be aware of those living around them. The most important thing for me is that Students are no-longer seen as second-class citizens. We are exactly the same as you, trying to make our way in the world, increasing our opportunities and enjoying life.

Please don’t tar us all with the same brush.

Kind Regards,
Leigh.

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