A UNIVERSITY has been told it must make improvements to footpaths and road crossings before it opens a new £39.8m development, if it is given the go-ahead by councillors next week.

Durham County Council is due to decide on proposals by Durham University to build a new teaching and conference centre on land it owns close to its science site off South Road.

The council’s Highways Authority has echoed concerns raised by local residents’ groups that the improvement must be made to widen footpaths and upgrade crossings.

It has suggested that the university should enter legal agreements to make sure these changes are made ahead of the building opening, if the proposals are agreed.

The university wants to build a three-storey building on St Mary’s field, which has previously been used as a sports field, with two lecture theatres, computer laboratories, two cafes and classrooms.

It says the scheme is one of the first part of its ten-year masterplan and is needed to cater for around 4,000 extra students coming to the university over the next decade.

Historic England raised concerns, saying it intrudes upon views of the historic houses on the edge of Durham’s conservation area and on the grounds of St Mary’s College.

But council planners have recommended the scheme is approved, saying the economic benefits outweigh the harm caused to heritage assets and the loss of around 100 trees.

The development will also create 186 direct constructions jobs, as well as 281 indirect ones, and 32 full time positions when it is operational.

A report to be considered by councillors says: “The development would result in public benefits.

“The proposed teaching and learning centre will contribute to enhancing university facilities within the city so that it can maintain its status as a renowned university.”

A decision is due to be made at a meeting at County Hall, Durham, on Tuesday, September 12 at 1pm.