COUNCILLORS have approved another 109 student beds for Durham, despite claims the city is now suffering a gross over-supply of such accommodation.
Durham County Council today (Tuesday, July 22) backed CCL Group’s scheme to build 109 student bedrooms across five blocks on the site of the now-closed Durham Light Infantryman (DLI) pub, on Gilesgate, Durham City.
The pub will be demolished to make way for the development.
The council’s central and east planning committee approved the plans unanimously, despite Councillor David Freeman’s claims of a “gross over-supply of student accommodation”.
“This is the fourth planning application in the last six weeks for purpose-built student accommodation and there’s a further one next week,” he said.
“We should have considered all these together, rather than the ad hoc way we are. Members would then have been able to consider the wider issues.
“Durham University plans to increase student numbers by 1,800 by 2020. We’ve already given planning permission for an extra 2,300 rooms.
“With 400 unfilled rooms this year, it’s clear there’s a gross over-supply of student accommodation. There’s a lack of any strategic approach.”
However, Cllr Freeman added the latest scheme would improve the area, as the pub had been derelict for a number of years, and it would not significantly detract from Gilesgate.
Cllr Alan Bell said the project would improve an eyesore site and proposed supporting the officers’ recommendation to grant planning permission – a motion seconded by Cllr Patrick Conway.
The City of Durham Trust had objected, saying there were too many student accommodation developments in the city.
However, James Taylor, for CCL, told today’s County Hall meeting there was “pent up demand” in the market.
The applicant planned to build the accommodation itself so it could be delivered quickly, he added.
Mr Taylor said the firm bought the site in November 2012 and had consulted the public on its proposals, which he said would improve what is part of a conservation area.
Afterwards, Cllr Nigel Martin warned Durham was heading for a proverbial housing car crash if all developments granted planning permission materialise.
“The current planning framework is all about sustainable development. If this isn’t an example of unsustainable development, I don’t know what is,” he said.