DURHAM University has been given the go ahead for a state-of-the-art new teaching and learning centre which will help it expand over the coming decade.

The plans for the £39.8m development, which will be built on land close to the university’s science site off South Road.

The Durham County Council planning committee approved the application unanimously.

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Objections had been raised by local residents because of concerns over pedestrian safety and increased numbers of people using the already congested pavements in the area.

Roger Cornwell, from the Durham City Neighbourhood Forum, said the building was likely to have in the region of 850 students arriving at peak times, more than the 300 predicted by the university’s consultants.

He said: “This is a large and expensive building and the university will want to make the most of it.”

Highways officer John McGargill said the additional number of pedestrians would not make footpath usage uncomfortable.

There are plans to widen the footpath as well as create a new “super highway” for pedestrians between Mount Oswald, where the university is building a new college, and the New Inn crossroads at the bottom of South Road, in the coming years.

Professor Alan Houston, pro-vice chancellor , told the committee that the university had reached its capacity for teaching.

He added: “The development of this facility will provide much needed teaching and learning space in a sustainable location and will reduce the need for staff and student movement.”

The three-storey building on St Mary’s field, will have two lecture theatres, computer laboratories, cafes, seminar rooms and study spaces and will have the capacity to host medium-sized conferences.

The scheme is one of the first to come forward as part of the university’s plan to expand over the next decade, creating space for around 4,000 additional students.

Historic England had also 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.

Mr Houston said the development would create new views of Durham’s World Heritage Site.