Residents slam university and council at Durham debate

PLANNING MEETING: Roberta Blackman-Woods holds a public meeting at Durham Town Hall regarding plans for the bus station. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT (6760328)

PLANNING MEETING: Roberta Blackman-Woods holds a public meeting at Durham Town Hall regarding plans for the bus station. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT (6760328)

First published in News
Last updated

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.

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.

Comments (9)

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10:52pm Mon 2 Jun 14

grandmab says...

This seems to be the norm nowadays. Take a lovely, quaint and unique city/town and turn it into anywhere in the world modern tat. They have done it to so many places I no longer have the incentive to travel. Why bother I will find the same paving, the same shops and the same chain restaurants no matter where I go across the globe. Only difference now is the time zone and the climate.
This seems to be the norm nowadays. Take a lovely, quaint and unique city/town and turn it into anywhere in the world modern tat. They have done it to so many places I no longer have the incentive to travel. Why bother I will find the same paving, the same shops and the same chain restaurants no matter where I go across the globe. Only difference now is the time zone and the climate. grandmab
  • Score: 19

12:13am Tue 3 Jun 14

Longbowman666 says...

Durham bus station is in need of a revamp yes, but the new design they have come up with is completely impractical for the task!

And as usual, no doubt those who came up with the 'splendid' design don't use public transport at all, and so have no appreciation of the needs of the travelling public.
Durham bus station is in need of a revamp yes, but the new design they have come up with is completely impractical for the task! And as usual, no doubt those who came up with the 'splendid' design don't use public transport at all, and so have no appreciation of the needs of the travelling public. Longbowman666
  • Score: 18

1:13am Tue 3 Jun 14

saraj5716 says...

hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii saraj5716
  • Score: -14

6:41am Tue 3 Jun 14

tubgut says...

grandma very true.
grandma very true. tubgut
  • Score: 4

9:33am Tue 3 Jun 14

Rosvanian says...

Without the university Durham would have died years ago.
Without the university Durham would have died years ago. Rosvanian
  • Score: 0

10:24am Tue 3 Jun 14

markcoke74 says...

@Rosvanian. Undoubtably the University contributes to the local economy. That does not however give the university the right to do as it wishes to the detriment of the local population. Unfortunately this can be seen across the country in university towns and cities. It is ok for the students to turn up, study for a couple of years then go away to get on with their lives but to leave a trail of detritus and animosity in their wake is completely unacceptable.
@Rosvanian. Undoubtably the University contributes to the local economy. That does not however give the university the right to do as it wishes to the detriment of the local population. Unfortunately this can be seen across the country in university towns and cities. It is ok for the students to turn up, study for a couple of years then go away to get on with their lives but to leave a trail of detritus and animosity in their wake is completely unacceptable. markcoke74
  • Score: 12

11:06am Tue 3 Jun 14

Rosvanian says...

markcoke74 wrote:
@Rosvanian. Undoubtably the University contributes to the local economy. That does not however give the university the right to do as it wishes to the detriment of the local population. Unfortunately this can be seen across the country in university towns and cities. It is ok for the students to turn up, study for a couple of years then go away to get on with their lives but to leave a trail of detritus and animosity in their wake is completely unacceptable.
My comment was flippant and unecessary. I empathise with Durham residents' plight but it's difficult to compare Durham to other cities with a major university as the city is so small and the university pretty much dominates the city centre area. I'm not from the city but have a link to the university and it's true that arrogance is built into the very DNA of the place. They call it" The Durham Difference".
[quote][p][bold]markcoke74[/bold] wrote: @Rosvanian. Undoubtably the University contributes to the local economy. That does not however give the university the right to do as it wishes to the detriment of the local population. Unfortunately this can be seen across the country in university towns and cities. It is ok for the students to turn up, study for a couple of years then go away to get on with their lives but to leave a trail of detritus and animosity in their wake is completely unacceptable.[/p][/quote]My comment was flippant and unecessary. I empathise with Durham residents' plight but it's difficult to compare Durham to other cities with a major university as the city is so small and the university pretty much dominates the city centre area. I'm not from the city but have a link to the university and it's true that arrogance is built into the very DNA of the place. They call it" The Durham Difference". Rosvanian
  • Score: 4

5:27pm Tue 3 Jun 14

Voice-of-reality says...

Only the last two VCs have used the phrase 'the Durham difference' and thankfully Shabby is about to leave - so one can hope that the new VC will see the need to build a new college (not for extra students) but to house those already in the City. I believe that a building called Old Shire Hall is for sale and could be turned into a college (linked perhaps to the university's new accommodation in the Three Tuns). Alternatively the old County Hospital could be a college rather than purpose (developer led) student accommodation. Perhaps, if the council had the balls to say 'no more new buildings until you sort out the accommodation defecit' the university might do something. That Shabby is going is, nevertheless, a good start.
Only the last two VCs have used the phrase 'the Durham difference' and thankfully Shabby is about to leave - so one can hope that the new VC will see the need to build a new college (not for extra students) but to house those already in the City. I believe that a building called Old Shire Hall is for sale and could be turned into a college (linked perhaps to the university's new accommodation in the Three Tuns). Alternatively the old County Hospital could be a college rather than purpose (developer led) student accommodation. Perhaps, if the council had the balls to say 'no more new buildings until you sort out the accommodation defecit' the university might do something. That Shabby is going is, nevertheless, a good start. Voice-of-reality
  • Score: 5

12:23am Wed 4 Jun 14

Nicholas_Till says...

*Some* of the University has been to blame for this unpleasantness - namely, VC Chris Higgins and his allies. He is leaving soon, and a surprise vote of no confidence in him that very narrowly lost in the Senate may have influenced his decision to go. A great many in the University have disliked and disagreed with the way he has operated, and one hopes they will have a chance to change its direction - and, hopefully, restore a civilised relationship with the town - once he has gone. It should not be forgotten that the constructive input of University staff into the life of Durham, over many decades, has been extraordinarily great.

I wonder if he will take Paulina Lubacz and Harvey Dowdy with him when he goes. They were, of course, luminaries of Durham City Vision, whose agenda - as well as ruining the Market Place - seems to have involved linking the City's more powerful interest groups, the Council and the University among them, so that they could rule over the town together as a high-handed cabal. Higgins's employment of Dowdy is not altogether surprising in this context, but it hardly puts him in a creditable light.
*Some* of the University has been to blame for this unpleasantness - namely, VC Chris Higgins and his allies. He is leaving soon, and a surprise vote of no confidence in him that very narrowly lost in the Senate may have influenced his decision to go. A great many in the University have disliked and disagreed with the way he has operated, and one hopes they will have a chance to change its direction - and, hopefully, restore a civilised relationship with the town - once he has gone. It should not be forgotten that the constructive input of University staff into the life of Durham, over many decades, has been extraordinarily great. I wonder if he will take Paulina Lubacz and Harvey Dowdy with him when he goes. They were, of course, luminaries of Durham City Vision, whose agenda - as well as ruining the Market Place - seems to have involved linking the City's more powerful interest groups, the Council and the University among them, so that they could rule over the town together as a high-handed cabal. Higgins's employment of Dowdy is not altogether surprising in this context, but it hardly puts him in a creditable light. Nicholas_Till
  • Score: 6

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