PARISH councillors are considering their next move in how to tackle growing number of student homes in Durham.

The City of Durham Parish Council agreed earlier in the year to carry out a survey of the number of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in the city because of fears that inaccurate methods of counting were being used to make decisions on whether homes should be granted or refused permission to be used as student accommodation.

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.

There have been a number of occasions when developers, local residents and Durham County Council, which relies on council tax data, have disagreed over how many student properties there are in an area.

A PhD student has now drafted a report on the subject, which has been sent to councillors, who will now decide what steps to take.

In an analysis of recent planning appeals, the report found that on 27 occasions the parish council’s figures on the percentage of student housing was higher than the county council’s while on 28 occasions it was the same – particularly in areas of dense studentification.

In five of the applications, the parish council’s figures were lower than the county council’s.

It says: “One conclusion that can be drawn is that Durham County Council figures are credible in some postcodes, but less so in others.

“It is very difficult to find enough weaknesses in Durham County Council’s data/strength in the interim policy on student accommodation to protect heavily studentified areas from even more encroachment, but it is worth identifying flaws in the data on less studentified areas in order to protect them from future encroachment.”

Stuart Timmiss, head of development and housing at Durham County Council, said: “We use council tax data to determine the number of student properties within a particular area, as it is the most robust basis upon which decisions can be made in line with the interim policy.

“We have consulted on this approach widely and we would be happy to look at the parish council’s report.”

The report recommends continuing to improve the evidence base and looking at data from Durham University to highlight flaws in the council’s data in order to halt further studentification of residential areas.

It also suggests considering arranging a national conference on student accommodation.

The parish council’s planning committee is going to make a recommendation on what do to with the report at its next meeting, on August 13, and their findings will be put to the full council for any further action.