A BID to boost occupancy at a shared house has been approved by councillors, despite concerns about rising levels of student flats.

Durham County Council’s area planning committee were asked to consider proposals for a property at 35 Elvet Crescent in Durham City.

This included a loft conversion to increase the number of rooms in the building from six to seven.

Although the plans were pushed through, the meeting was dominated by debate around the council’s powers to resist house in multiple occupation.

City of Durham Parish Council objected to the plans saying the extension breached the council’s interim student accommodation policy and would lead to “intensification of student numbers”.

The parish council has raised similar concerns over such extension applications in recent months.

Council planners said the authority was unable to rely on the interim policy as a reason for refusal following several appeal decisions.

While the council is seeking to shift its stance towards HMO extensions in a permanent policy in the emerging county plan,  currently under examination by the planning inspectorate, the changes cannot be given weight until the plan is adopted.

Planning committee member, Councillor David Freeman, told the meeting more needed to be done to resist increasing numbers of HMO applications.

He said: “It’s one more bedroom but this drip drip effect is causing further damage to the balanced communities that Durham City actually needs.”

Planning officer, Alan Dobie, responding, said the council had fought the case for the interim policy, which was initially intended to control extensions and numbers of bedrooms of new HMOs.

He added several attempts to refuse HMO applications had been overturned by planning inspectors in the past – including a case where the council was ordered to pay costs.

He said: “We have done our best to try and fight that corner and have been unsuccessful in too many cases.”