DEVELOPERS say a £20m student accommodation scheme will collapse unless council planners cede ground on project timings.

When Alumno Developments was given the go-ahead to build privately-run digs for nearly 400 students on the former New College Durham site, in Neville's Cross, Durham City, in July, Durham County Council said Sheraton House, one of two early 20th century buildings on the site, should not be demolished until the conversion and extension of the second, Neville House, had been “substantially completed”.

Now project agents Fairhurst say that would delay the scheme by up to a year, leaving funders unable to fund it and making it commercial unviable.

Further, in a letter to the council, Fairhurst senior development planner Dominic Waugh says Durham University believes it is crucial to its own accommodation strategy the development is ready for students in September 2016, rather than 2017 as would otherwise be the case.

Mr Waugh says the delay would also have a negative impact on residential amenity and cause practical issues as the management suite, with offices and toilets, was to be located in the new Sheraton House block.

The developers want the council to let them start knocking down Sheraton House once it has seen a contract agreed for the whole project.

However, residents fear this could lead to Neville House standing mothballed, extending the current eyesore that has blighted the area for more than a decade.

Sheraton Park Residents’ Association wants the council to insist Sheraton and Neville Houses must be developed concurrently or the new Sheraton House cannot be occupied until Neville House’s conversion is completed.

Neville’s Cross councillor Grenville Holland asked that the decision be taken by the elected councillors of a planning committee, rather than planning officers acting under delegated powers.

The matter will be debated by the county planning committee at County Hall on Tuesday, January 6.

The statutory public consultation has now closed but further details can be found online at, using the reference DM/14/03241.

The original scheme was unpopular with some residents, who said it would be far too big, effectively creating a new university campus in a residential area, and contravene the Local Plan.

Alumno said it would provide the standard of accommodation needed in the city and free up private sector housing for families.