PARISH councillors are putting official figures on student housing under scrutiny following fears that incorrect data could be used in planning decisions.

The City of Durham Parish Council is considering creating its own database of the number of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) within the city.

It hopes the data could be used when making planning decisions relating to the creation of new HMOs.

There are rules in place aimed at trying to prevent the creation of new HMOs in areas where more than 10 per cent of the houses are already occupied by students.

But the parish council says Durham County Council's figures, which rely on council tax data, are flawed.

Councillor Alan Doig said: "One of the reasons for doing this is to see should we employ someone to see whether the council's information is accurate.

"We know it isn't but we have to demonstrate it isn't."

Cllr Doig is carrying out an informal survey of the area around the Duke of Wellington crossroads, in Neville's Cross, ahead of the council making a decision whether to do a formal one.

It follows an application to turn The Cornerhouse, on the crossroads, into an HMO, when the applicant used Durham County Council data to suggest 8.8 per cent of houses within 100m of the property were HMOs.

Cllr Doig said: "I am going to count the houses so we will be able to see the real figure which is probably 25 per cent, if not more."

Stuart Timmiss, from Durham County Council said: “We currently use council tax data as we believe it is the most robust, independent and consistent basis upon which decisions can be made in line with the Interim Policy.

“We have consulted on this previously and of course are more than happy to receive any thoughts the parish council may have on this matter.”

The parish council says more homes in the city could become student occupied as Durham University seeks to expand its numbers to 21,500.

The university says it wants to house 50 per cent of its students in halls of residence but Cllr Doig says they are not being built fast enough.

He said: "We calculate that building new halls and getting students in will not be match with the increasing students so there will still be an element moving into the private sector.

"The areas for that in Durham are very limited."

Cllr Elizabeth Scott added: "We have decided to carry out a little bit of detective work. The county council's figures are so far adrift from reality that it makes a mockery of their planning rules."