A new student university hub has been praised in the hope it will help curb the ongoing student housing crisis in Durham city. 

Plans for a communal college facility, at accommodation in Rushford Court, which includes include a bar, communal space and offices to form the university’s 18th college, will be built after receiving approval. 

The new two-storey facility will vastly improve students' social experience and will become “the beating heart” of the local college community, the applicant said, but no additional student bed spaces are planned. 

Jeremy Cook, pro-vice chancellor for colleges and student experience at Durham University, said the building will reduce the need for houses in multiple occupations (HMOs) in the city.

HMOs have long proved controversial among residents who are aggrieved to see their communities inundated with planning requests to convert residential homes into student housing.  

In an objection to a recent application to convert a residential home into a HMO, the City of Durham Parish Council argued: “it’s unacceptable that ordinary working class people are being squeezed out of Durham city by students,” adding that the areas often targeted are “tranquil and connected” places for permanent residents. 

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But councillors hope this is the start of a turning point in the ongoing dispute over university accommodation in the city. 

Cllr Jonathan Elmer said: “I am really pleased to see this. As you all know, the city has faced pressures from the conversion of houses to HMOs. It’s great to see this application in this location and making creative use of the location. This takes off the pressures on residents in the city.”

Cllr Carl Marshall also backed the plans in the hope that it will encourage prospective students live at the improved site. He said: “This isn’t a golden bullet that’s going to take away demand and need for student housing straight away but it’s exactly the type of development we need.