4.199 The emerging County Durham Plan contains strategic policies for the development of the University (Policy 16.1), for Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSAs) (Policy 16.2) and for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) (Policy 16.3). Given the great significance of the issue for Durham City, the context and content of these policies is set out below.
4.200 Student accommodation in Durham City is one of the most frequently mentioned issues in the Neighbourhood Plan’s consultations (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2015), and the subject of much debate over many years. Working in partnership with Durham University and residents’ groups, the County Council adopted an Interim Policy (Durham County Council, 2016d) to deal with applications to develop houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) and purpose built student accommodation (PBSAs) and this has proved to be reasonably effective. The emerging County Durham Local Plan proposes significant improvements in the light of experience. This is most welcome.
4.201 The over-riding consideration within these policies on whether additional HMOs or PBSAs are acceptable is the objective in the NPPF (para. 62) of creating mixed and balanced communities. The context section above explains how ‘studentification’ can be and has been damaging to community harmony and balance.
Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSAs)
4.202 PBSAs comprise a number of cluster flats and/or self-contained flats. Each flat in a PBSA is counted as a residential unit. University colleges are PBSAs and County Plan Policy 16.2 confirms the identification by the University of six sites on its own estate where additional PBSAs can be built: 1. Leazes Road; 2. Howlands – Josephine Butler and Ustinov; 3. James Barber House; 4. Elvet Hill car park; 5. land adjacent to St Mary’s College; and 6. Mill Hill Lane. (See Map 6). Extensions to existing and future PBSAs on the University Estate are in principle welcome. These and further PBSA development on sites not allocated in the County Plan for student accommodation have to meet a wide range of requirements including need; accessibility; design; no adverse impacts on retail, employment, leisure, tourism, housing or the County Council’s regeneration objectives; and no unacceptable impact upon the amenity of surrounding residents.
Map 6: Purpose Built Student Accommodation Sites
4.203 The C3 planning use class covers dwelling houses for up to six people living together as a single household. Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) are properties shared by between 3 and 6 unrelated individuals and are planning use class C4; an HMO where more than six unrelated individuals are sharing is known as “Sui Generis” (of its own class). Enabling changes of use from an HMO to C3 will be a challenge as there is some evidence that students prefer HMO accommodation to PBSAs or college accommodation (Durham University, Geography Department, 2015). County Plan Policy 16.3 on HMOs sets a clear threshold for resisting further HMOs, This is to apply NPPF (para. 62) which expects planning policies to aim to create mixed and balanced communities.
4.204 Implementation of the interim policy and its successor County Plan Policy 16.3 depends for HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) upon the introduction of an Article 4 Direction to remove certain householder development rights within a prescribed part of the City. Such a Direction was approved for a large part of the centre of the City and came into force on 17th September 2016. A further Direction for much of Framwellgate and Newton Hall (outside Our Neighbourhood) came into force on 17th May 2017. In order to be able to resist the overspilling of HMO developments into the rest of Our Neighbourhood, a third Direction to cover the remaining part of this Parish area would be needed. This is an action which would be for the County Council to consider.
Next section: Policy D2: Housing for Older People and People with Disabilities