A COUNCILLOR has “thrown down the gauntlet” to a university after accusing it of coming up with disappointing design for new college buildings.

Durham University is building two colleges in the city as part of an expansion plan to increase students numbers to 21,500 by 2027.

It was given permission for the new buildings at Mount Oswald, off South Road, by Durham County Council’s area planning committee at a meeting yesterday.

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There were no objections to the scheme, which creates a new home for John Snow College, which was relocated from the university’s Stockton campus in 2017, as well as a 17th college.

It will house 1,000 students as well as have music, drama and faith facilities. The university is also hoping to install a multi-use games area nearby, which is subject to a separate planning application.

But the design of the new buildings was criticised by ward councillor Liz Brown.

She said: “This application is a great disappointment to me. I’m sure many would look at the building site Durham has become, with the plethora of PBSAs (purpose built student accommodation) and thought that Durham University could do a better job if it was in charge of commissioning.

“But no, we are getting more of the same – cheap, fast construction.

“They could have been jewels in Durham University’s crown, instead of getting something that could be seen in any university town.

“I’m throwing down the gauntlet. This is the first of many applications that will be coming from the university as it seeks to provide teaching and colleges for the influx of students. Developments should respond to local character and history and appropriate innovations should be made.

“As a world heritage site, Durham city and its residents deserve better.”

Pro-vice chancellor Owen Adams said: “The design process we went through took over three years to get us here where we are today. It’s been a long and complex discussion through which we have undertaken to use local suppliers and create new jobs and apprenticeships.

“We are very excited on behalf of the university for this opportunity.”

The colleges, which are part of a strategy to house 50 per cent of students in university accommodation, will be built next to another 850-bed PBSA, which was approved earlier this year following an application by the Banks Group.

Twelve councillors voted in favour of the scheme. Cllr Mark Wilkes abstained, raising concerns about the safety of students travelling in the area.