SCORES of furious residents vented their anger at Durham’s university and council tonight (Monday, June 2), accusing the authorities of ruining their once beautiful, historic city.
More than 100 people packed Durham Town Hall for a public meeting called by the city’s MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods, to debate plans to turn the former County Hospital into accommodation for hundreds of students and revamp rundown North Road, including by building a new bus station.
But the forum became a “state of the city” style debate, with scores of residents angrily condemning Durham University and Durham County Council for how they deal with the city.
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One woman said that Durham was a beautiful city with some trouble round the edges was a myth; rather it is a “bloody mess”, being systematically destroyed.
A young mother broke down into tears as she told how on moving into Durham ten years ago to raise a family she had wanted to live in the city forever but now feels forced out, as she is woken several times a week by late night student rowdiness and one drunken scholar even tried to break into her home, thinking it was his.
The university was accused of being completely amoral, totally cynical, not caring about the city and refusing to engage in dialogue; while the council was accused of failing to deliver a student accommodation strategy and not giving a damn about the city.
Denise Dodds said: “I used to be proud to say I was from Durham. Now I’m ashamed.”
Kirsty Thomas, chair of St Nicholas’ Community Forum, said: “Trying to talk to university senior staff is like talking to a brick wall.”
Frances Armstrong said: “There is no strategy to stop this city being destroyed.”
On the former County Hospital development, Crossgate Community Partnership chair Roger Cornwell accused the developers of being deceitful; and Waddington Street resident Jackie Levitas claimed they were hoping to “bully their way through”.
Agents Signet Planning say the £17m scheme would tackle a shortfall in student accommodation and remove unsympathetic additions to the original Victorian building.
Tempers flared as North Road was debated, with Alderman Phil Stoddart saying Durham desperately needed a new bus station, but others saying the proposed modern design was totally inappropriate.
The County Hospital scheme is expected to go before a council planning committee in the next few weeks; while the council hopes to file a planning application for the bus station later this summer.