A PROPOSAL to create student accommodation in Durham’s conservation area were narrowly rejected following a storm of protest by residents.

Durham County Council area planning committee chairman Councillor Paul Taylor used his casting vote to break the deadlock over plans to extend the former Neville’s Cross Workingmen’s Club, at Neville’s Cross Bank, Durham.

Residents objected on the grounds of potential for anti-social behaviour, traffic concerns, loss of amenity and the adverse impact on the conservation area.

Loading article content

The plans were opposed by the City of Durham Trust, while a total of 36 letters of objection along with a petition signed by more than 50 people were submitted.

Planning officers had recommended approval saying the site was acceptable for the development.

Gary Hodgson, speaking on behalf the applicant, said the plans had been sensitively designed and would provide a positive contribution to an important gateway to the city.

Speaking out against the plans, ward councillor Nigel Martin said the site was on the periphery of a “heavily studentified” area and allowing the development would triple the number of students in the immediate area.

Alan Doig, representing the Crossgate Community Partnership, said the development could potentially house 66 students and would alter the balance between students and residents at a stroke.

He said: “It will overwhelm is and impact heavily on local amenity. “

Cllr Grenville Holland, who recommended the plans be refused, said: “The city already has far more properties converted into student use than are needed – the market is already saturated.

“For example, I am told by the letting agencies themselves, that in the city centre at present there are already 83 properties unoccupied, amounting to 380 surplus bed spaces.”

Listing several developments in the pipeline, he added: “The problem is the city is being undermined in the rush by many developers wanting to make a quick return by student accommodation, with an uncontrolled outcome that brings no long-term structural benefit to Durham City.”

In a separate application, councillors rejected plans for change of use of 51 The Avenue to form a nine-bed house in multiple occupancy for student - despite recommendation by planning officers that it be allowed.

Crossgate Community Partnership chairman Roger Cornwell said: “I think that committee now accepts the ongoing problem with student accommodation

“They do now seem to be sympathetic to residents. We are very pleased with the outcome.