TENSIONS are mounting between city residents and one of the North-East’s top universities over plans to increase student numbers over the next decade.

Concerns about the number of students living in Durham have been rising since the announcement in 2016 that Durham University wants to have up to 21,500 students by 2027.

Residents’ groups representing communities across the city have now joined together to slam attempts by the university to consult the public on its plans.

The university is hosting an event, titled University and City: Growing together on Friday, March 2, with representatives from Durham Police and Durham County Council as well as MP Roberta Blackman-Woods.

A joint statement from six groups, which are represented on the Durham University Residents’ Forum (DURF), says: “We wish to make clear that this is not what we called for at DURF meetings can not the way we consider that the university should act if it wants to grow responsibly with us.

“We all want Durham University to be successful but not at the price of the city’s assimilation into the university estate.”

The group, which claims the DURF has been ignored since the announcement of the university’s new strategy and master plan, has been calling for a public meeting on the proposals for the last 15 months. It is still urging people to attend the event to make their views heard.

Jane Robinson, chief operating officer, said: “Durham is a university rooted in our communities. We are proud of the positive contribution we make to Durham, economically, culturally socially and through our world-leading research.

“As a world top 100 university, we operate in an increasingly competitive, global environment and we need to grow and develop to ensure our long-term sustainability and continued success.

“We want to do this in a way that benefits everyone in our great city and region and I would invite all with an interest in Durham to engage with us.”

The event will include four presentations and a round table discussion on themes including economic regeneration, cultural engagement, citizenship, transport and highways, sustainable communities, housing and the built environment.

The residents’ group joint statement adds: “We felt none of these, and certainly not just 30 minutes allocated for discussion, reflected our concerns about the consequences of expansion and for the city or the role of a public meeting to voice those concerns.”

“We have asked for much shorter presentations, much more time for people to express their views and freedom to raise any issues - positive and negative - about the university’s strategy and masterplan for growth by 40 per cent in student numbers in Durham City.”

Students have also voiced concerns about the expansion, including worries about city centre overcrowding and housing.

Student Union president Megan Croll said: “Some people are worried about the numbers and some people understand why it needs to grow. People are quite split on it but the thing they agree on is if it grows, it needs to be managed carefully.

“It’s not just overcrowding in the city centre, it’s finding housing in the private sector.”

It takes place at the Town Hall, in the Market Place, at 4.30-7pm.