Residents are celebrating after proposals to create more student homes in Durham City residential neighbourhoods failed to receive approval, as councillors vowed to crackdown on the issue. 

Campaigners from across the city united once again to oppose the latest plans in the long-running saga of developers wanting to create houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) for students. 

Dozens of residents attended a Durham County Council planning meeting on Tuesday to show their support behind the campaign, with many standing outside County Hall with placards that read: “Save Durham. No more HMOs.”

Councillors considered two separate applications: one to convert a five-bed home into a seven-bed HMO in 41 Fieldhouse Lane; and another to convert a house into a HMO on Lyndhurst Drive. Both properties are located in the Neville’s Cross ward of the city - an area frequently targeted by developers. 

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The meeting heard from locals, who said introducing the new HMOs into areas largely made up of families would “imbalance the community”. 

"We should be putting families first"

Cllr Grenville Holland, of City of Durham Parish Council, urged members of the planning committee to put their city first.

He said: “In the last 25 years the landlords have systematically consumed family homes in Durham City to such an extent that, as a university city, records show that Durham has the highest student to population ratio in the country. 

“Why are we adding to it here when we already have more than enough student accommodation built in our city, and the university has over a thousand more rooms available in the pipeline? 

“We should be putting families in our community first, and not always pandering to the transient and temporary student accommodation market or gladly lining the landlord’s pockets.” 

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More than 160 objection letters were submitted to Durham County Council to oppose both schemes, with the local MP Mary Kelly Foy also backing the residents’ campaign. 

Heather Shaw, a resident of Lyndhurst Drive, described the cul-de-sac as a ‘close-knit community’ that already has its fair share of HMOs. With three out of 13 homes on the small estate currently designated as HMOs, Ms Shaw said it isn’t a “sustainable mix” and said introducing more would cause “irreparable harm”. 

Student houses were likened to “Sardines in a tin” by Cllr Jonathan Elmer, before adding: “this is no quality of life.”

“Please don’t make Durham a worse place”

Less than a mile away on Fieldhouse Lane, Alan Gemmill said creating another HMO to the area would disrupt residents’ lives. 

“Of huge concern to residents is the well-documented problem of noise, anti-social behaviour associated with student HMOs,” he said.

“That is what lies ahead for residents, a group of three properties housing about 20 students with adjacent gardens for parties at all times of the day or night.”

In an impassioned statement to committee members, Cllr Susan Walker, of City of Durham Parish Council, pleaded: “please don’t make Durham a worse place.”

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But Gabrielle Moore, the applicant for the Fieldhouse Lane HMO, played down the concerns and insisted people living there would respect the area.

She added: “Some of the statements added online by neighbours are prejudging students. I have many tenants who are helpful to their neighbours and whose positive behaviour has been commented on. 

“Students looking to party would, in my opinion, look for houses in the more concentrated areas and not in the more family neighbourhoods.”

However, councillors backed the campaign of locals, while also calling for a change of approach to HMOs from the local authority. Cllr Kevin Shaw said: “We need to implement a planning framework that tackles this HMO issue.”

Both applications were unanimously refused.