DEVELOPERS behind a £20m plan to turn a former teaching college into privately-run digs for almost 400 students hope to get the go-ahead next month (May).

Bosses at Alumno Developments hope their scheme for the historic former New College Durham site, in Neville’s Cross, Durham, will go before a Durham County Council planning committee in early May.

The firm wants to turn the red-brick 1900s-built Neville House into 233 bedrooms, but demolish neighbouring Sheraton House to make way for a new 191-bedroom block.

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In support of its plans, Alumno commissioned a report into the need for more student housing.

The study, by London-based Jeremy Leach Research Ltd, suggests 8,000 students currently “live out” from Durham University’s colleges – double the number who did so in 2001.

It says the number of full-time students at the university has increased by 39 per cent since 2000-1, to almost 15,000, and the University expects student numbers to grow by another 700 by 2014 and 2,000 by 2020.

While planning permission has been granted for developments totalling 1,600 beds, the study says more are still needed.

David Campbell, Alumno’s managing director, said: “This independent study shows the deep need for more bespoke quality custom-built student accommodation in Durham, where the student population is set to grow in the coming years.

“Developments like our planned scheme at Sheraton Park will not only provide the standard of accommodation required by students in the 21st century, they will also free up the private sector housing currently used by students.

“We believe the proposals offer a real unique opportunity to bring the far-reaching benefits for the entire community by the significant improvements to public areas.”

Commenting on the Sheraton Park scheme, Harvey Dowdy, the University’s deputy director of estates, said: “We believe the development will enhance what is currently acknowledged to be a poor environment with relatively few viable options for alternative use of the site.”

If planning approval is granted, Alumno hopes work will begin on site in May or June and be completed by September 2015.

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