OPPOSITION is growing to plans to turn a leading hotel into student accommodation, with even another housing developer speaking out in protest.
The owners of the Kingslodge Hotel, in Durham City, want to convert the building, on Waddington Street, into rooms for 57 students – plans which would also spell the closure of the Michelin Guide-listed Finbarr’s restaurant.
However, Durham County Council has received objections to the scheme from Whinney Hill Community Group (WHCG), Western Hill residents, Crossgate Community Partnership (CCP), the City of Durham Trust and county councillor Nigel Martin.
Now developers Gentoo, currently building 19 homes on the former Arriva bus depot next door, say more students would have a detrimental impact on the residential area and “further imbalance the student/resident ratio”.
Jane Turnbull, the firm’s land and planning co-ordinator, writes: “Gentoo Homes recognise that there is a need for further student accommodation within the city centre but feel that a full needs assessment should be undertaken by Durham County Council as to the location for any new development and a strategy to meet the identified need.”
WHCG suggests some areas of the city are already 85 per cent students and the CCP argues no further student accommodation should be allowed in the area.
Western Hill residents say there are too many students already, the Kingslodge Hotel is a fantastic independent facility and Finbarr’s has a huge reputation for success.
“We consider the proposal to be a potential nightmare for any poor residents that happen to live in the Viaduct area,” they write.
Councillor Martin says there are 400 unlet beds for the coming academic year and the hotel owners have no experience of managing students and have made no effort to produce a management policy.
The City of Durham Trust warns of the potential of a “socially monolithic zone” and raises concerns of nearby Flass Vale nature reserve becoming a student playground.
James O’Leary, co-owner of Finbarr’s, has already spoken out against the scheme.
In a supporting statement, The Planning Station say Durham needs more student accommodation, 220 new beds have been approved for nearby Ainsley Street and the applicant, Barbara Murphy, would welcome a condition requiring a management plan.
The hotel opened in August 2000 and currently has 21 bedrooms, with planning consent to expand to 50.
The application is expected to be discussed by a council committee in September.