DURHAM University's plans to provide more accommodation for students have been welcomed by the city's Labour MP.

Gerry Steinberg, who retires at the next election, is concerned that the city's growing student population is putting pressure on the housing market.

He has taken up concerns with the university from constituents that the demand from students for private rented housing is pushing up prices.

The university plans to create 1,000 rooms on its campuses as part of its proposals for a new £35.5m college.

Most of the accommodation will be at Howlands Farm, South Road, and it is likely the Government Office for the North-East (Gone) will have to give permission for the scheme because the site is next to green belt and woodland in an Area of Great Landscape Value.

Mr Steinberg said he was urging Gone to give approval as quickly as possible.

He said: "Durham City desperately needs the provision of further university student residences, which will significantly reduce pressure on the housing market in Durham for student accommodation.

"Concerns associated with the proliferation of student accommodation are some of the most cited issues in my postbag, and I am acutely aware of the difficulties being experienced and the strength of feeling on the issue.

"The present situation creates serious problems for both students and residents. The landlords raking in huge profits are the only ones presently benefiting from the university's lack of student accommodation.

"Durham University's proposed development will undoubtedly assist in alleviating some of the problems evident, and I fully support the proposals.''

The scheme, which the university hopes to complete by 2006, will also see additions to other colleges.

A spokeswoman said: "We want to allow as many of our students to live on university premises as we can.

"Hopefully, the building programme will help encourage students to come back into college accommodation rather than live in rented housing."

The new college will be built at Howlands Farm and will have 600 places for undergraduates. The university currently has 15 colleges.

The scheme also includes an accommodation complex to replace the 1960s building at Parson's Field, off Old Elvet. It will be used by St Cuthbert's Society.