Multi-million pound student digs scheme scaled back - but residents remain opposed

The Northern Echo: Neville House, in the foreground, and Sheraton House, behind Neville House, in the foreground, and Sheraton House, behind

MULTI-million pound plans to convert a former college into student accommodation have been scaled back – but campaigners remain opposed to the scheme.

Alumno Developments have cut their £20m proposals for the former New College Durham campus, at Neville’s Cross, Durham City, from 424 student beds to 418, to accommodate a community room.

However, a residents’ survey has found strong opposition to the scheme and Richard Cookson, chairman of the AlumNO! campaign, said: “People are deeply concerned that this development is completely at odds with a family estate.”

Alumno want to extend the 1900s-built Neville House, but demolish neighbouring Sheraton House to create a new student block.

Critics say the scheme is too big, effectively creating a privately-run university campus, but the developers say it would meet a need for student accommodation, free up private sector housing and bring far-reaching community benefits.

The Save Britain’s Heritage group has said Sheraton House must be saved, but English Heritage has raised no objections to the proposals.

The residents’ survey was sent to all 272 households on the Sheraton Park estate, which surrounds the site. Of the respondents, 12 per cent supported the plans, 15 per cent were neutral and 73 per cent were against.

“The strength of feeling towards this development is evident in the sheer number of residents that are opposed to the plans,” Mr Cookson said.

However, Gary Robson, chairman of Sheraton Park Residents’ Association, said householders felt pressured to respond and in fact many are in favour of the development.

Mr Cookson accused Alumno of paying lip service to consultation and trying to ride roughshod over the Local Plan.

David Campbell, Alumno’s managing director, said this was nonsense – the firm held two consultation events last year and changed its plans as a result of comments received.

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