An estate agency which placed signs around Chester labelling the city ‘StudentVille’ took them down after getting a letter from the Lord Mayor.
Matthew’s has apologised, saying it was ‘not their intention to upset anyone’, after some residents living in the Garden Quarter complained when they spotted the ‘offensive’ To Let signs placed outside properties, featuring a picture of their community mural.
The signs, which feature a logo reading ‘We love StudentVille Chester’, were removed by Matthew’s of Chester just days after they were put up, after a resident went into the office to complain.
The estate agents then received a letter from the Lord Mayor of Chester calling for them to be taken down.
Speaking as a ward councillor for residents in the Garden Quarter, Cllr Bob Rudd contacted the managing director of Matthew’s, urging the estate agents to take down the boards and a ‘StudentVille’ Facebook page which he said were ‘disrespectful and unnecessary’ to the diverse neighbourhood.
In a letter to Cllr Rudd handed to The Chronicle, managing director Rebecca Matthew offered her ‘sincere apologies for any offence caused’ by the brand. The signs were immediately removed and replaced with the normal To Let boards.
The campaign, run by the student letting team, also had a Facebook page which shared tips for students living in their rented flats, and spread news articles urging harmony in the residential area.
But the page also has lists including ‘10 random things to do before you graduate university’, with recommendations including to ‘steal a traffic cone’ to ‘put on your head and/or use a loudspeaker while being wheeled around in a shopping trolley’ and ‘give a presentation while drunk’.
This list was removed from the Facebook page shortly after the Chronicle contacted Matthew’s, who said they will change the name of the page to reflect its true design.
Cllr Rudd said: “People who are part of the area and part of the Garden Quarter do not want it to be called that.”
Cllr Rudd said he had been contacted by a number of residents who were ‘really annoyed’ by the labelling of their community.
He added Matthew’s had used the mural which the community has copyright on and put it in their advert with the label ‘StudentVille’. “I asked them to stop using that.”
Speaking to The Chronicle, Rebecca Matthew stressed the signs had been taken down the same day she got the letter after a resident came in to the office and complained.
Explaining the StudentVille name and logo were chosen as a result of a competition, she said: “After looking at how other agents work with the student communities in university cities such as Cardiff and Bangor, we decided to follow their lead and create a Facebook page to engage with the students in a fun and informative way.
“The image of the Garden Quarter mural was chosen by one of the students to be used as it summed up the ethos of a cosmopolitan diverse community living together – it was not our intention to label the Garden Quarter in particular in any way as we let student properties all across Chester.
“We put six boards up and received one complaint after a few days. We immediately acted upon the complaint and removed all boards as we did not wish to cause offence to anyone.”
She said she would be happy to meet Cllr Rudd to discuss how Matthew’s can work with him to promote better relationships between students and residents in the city.
“There is no getting away from the fact that there is a large and growing student population in Chester and we believe that our Facebook page can only have a positive effect on relations between local residents and students,” she said.
“There are, therefore, no plans to remove the Facebook page but we will change the name to reflect the fact this page is intended to promote our student lettings department and not about any particular area of Chester.”