RESIDENTS have lost their battle to stop £20m worth of student digs being developed in their quiet residential neighbourhood.

Families living on Sheraton Park in Neville’s Cross, Durham City, had hoped to thwart Alumno Development plans to build privately-run accommodation for nearly 400 students on the former New College Durham site.

But Durham county councillors sitting on the county planning committee turned a deaf ear to their pleas and yesterday (Tuesday, July 1) endorsed a recommendation by planning officers that the proposals be approved.

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Sheraton House will now be demolished to make way for a new 191-bedroom block, while neighbouring Neville House will be turned into 233 bedrooms.

Addressing the meeting, resident and objector Richard Cookson said: “This proposal will have a major impact on our lives.

“We all bought our homes in Sheraton Park on the understanding that Sheraton House would be converted into residential flats. Together we have build up a flourishing family community.

“Due to clear provisions in the City of Durham Local Plan 2004, we felt confident the buildings would never be converted into student accommodation.

“Yet now we discover that our cohesive family community could be destroyed. This is a gross betrayal."

Calling for the plans to be rejected, Councillor Grenville Holland said: “We already have a surfeit of student beds in Durham city - far more than are needed to house the students in Durham University. "

Supporting the plans, Councillor David Boyes said: “To me it is a very good scheme. It is the redevelopment of a site is in desperate need of development. There will be 160 jobs on site and local jobs at that.”

As part of the development Alumno will invest £420,000 in a variety of local initiatives, including the provision of a public art project, new residential footpaths and the creation of substantial new parkland.

David Campbell, managing director of Alumno, said: “We are delighted by the decision.

"Our vision for this site will transform a huge blot on the Durham landscape into a sympathetic new development which will be more in keeping with standards across the rest of this area."