FEARS are growing that new rules aimed at halting the spread of student housing in a city are not working.

It comes after a planning application to convert a town house in Neville’s Cross, Durham into a house of multiple occupation (HMO) was approved by a Durham County Council planning committee.

A meeting on Tuesday heard 6.5 per cent of homes within 100m of the house in Dalton Crescent were occupied by students – below the 10 per cent limit dictated by the council’s policy on student housing, which was introduced last year.

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Bus residents say planners should have taken account of more than 400 students who are due to move into the estate next month when Durham University moves Ustinov College to the recently converted former New College building, which backs onto Dalton Crescent.

Neville’s Cross councillors Liz Brown and Elizabeth Scott said the decision flew in the face of common sense.

Cllr Brown said: “Durham County Council introduced the Interim Student Policy to fill a planning vacuum and it has not turned out to be the answer Durham’s beleaguered residents hoped for.

“Parts of Durham have become student ghettos to the detriment of all Durham residents. This area has a thriving community spirit with a mixture of ages.

“Approving this application may not seem like a big deal but it could be the step that leads to the loss of yet another community.”

Sheraton Park Residents’ Association objected to the application and is now trying to collate its own data on HMO numbers.

Member Bas Hesselink said: “We certainly believe that the new student accommodation in the middle of the estate should be taken into account.

“We also know some HMOs are not registered and we think the true student population figure is higher than on the council’s books.”

He added: “I don’t think the rules they have introduced are working for our estate.”

Sheraton Park resident Joe Elliott added: “What sticks it in the most is that there was a lot of talk and fanfare about these new rules and they were going to put a halt to HMOs but on our estate it’s meaningless.”

Head of council planning Stuart Timmiss says council tax data is used to calculate HMO figures, which he said was “the most robust and accurate” information held.

He said: “While the nearby purpose built student accommodation was considered as part of this application, as it has different impacts on the local community to HMOs and as the HMO met the criteria for approval, the application was approved.”