Durham Council gives green light To £20 million student housing scheme

Durham County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for a student housing development at Sheraton Park, Neville’s Cross, will result in a £420k injection in development funding for the local community.

The decision, announced on Tuesday 1 July, means that the specialist student housing developer, Alumno Developments1, will transform two large, derelict Edwardian buildings on the Sheraton Park Estate into purpose-built student accommodation as well as providing substantial community investment- a landmark contribution for this type of proposal – in the neighbouring area. The funding will be used for a variety of local initiatives including provision of a public art project, new residential footpaths and the creation of substantial new parkland. There are also plans to develop a community room for local residents and a recreational space in the derelict land between the two buildings. Open to all residents, this will transform a dangerous wasteland into a safe, publicly accessible amenity.

Alumno, a specialist in the design and development of high quality and modern accommodation for students, plans to create and design a ‘lyric reference’ to renowned Durham singer-songwriter Paddy Mcaloon within the landscaped garden. The Prefab Sprout band member commented: ‘Neville’s cross has special memories and I am flattered to be approached and look forward to seeing further details.’

David Campbell, managing director of Alumno, says:

“Today’s decision really is a vote for common sense. Our vision for this site will transform a derelict and dangerous blot on the Durham landscape into a sympathetic new development which will be more in keeping with standards across the rest of this area and, once the new residents are in, has the potential to bring additional prosperity across the locality. Our plans for the central parkland will also make a difference to residents’ lives – instead of a dangerous wasteland which is strictly off limits, residents will be able to enjoy a safe and well-maintained open space.”

Sensitive to the impact that a development can have on any community, Alumno reacted to feedback from the local planning authority and residents and made significant adjustments their initial plans. These included a robust ‘noise management plan’ which proposes a proactive student wardens service on site; a reduction in the number of student bed-spaces to 418; additional car parking spaces and the provision of a residents’ community room.

Alumno supported its plans with independent research2 that identified a significant shortfall in purpose-built student housing across the city. The report highlighted that Durham University can only house 7,000 of its 15,000 students, with this population expected to rise to 17,000 by 2020. Without Alumno’s development, the city would only be able to provide purpose-built accommodation for around 50 per cent of Durham’s student population.

Alumno’s Campbell added:

“Given the severe shortfall of high quality, purpose-built student accommodation in the city, the development will also go some way in addressing the need for bespoke purpose built accommodation that fits into the collegiate model so unique to Durham. This can also assist the wider need of other tenures by freeing up private sector housing for families and more traditional use. Our proposal offers significant investment in the local area, and we believe this scheme offers a genuine opportunity to bring far reaching benefits for the entire community.”

As local resident, Charlotte Robson, comments:

“The development makes good sense for student living. Under management, these buildings are always maintained and student behaviour monitored and controlled….If the university continues to expand and grow, such developments like this in my opinion are a sensible option.”

Work on the project is due to begin in February 2015, with completion in summer 2016.

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