Theme 4: A City With Attractive and Affordable Places to Live

4.4.1 Vision and Objectives



Provision of a range of housing types to meet the needs of a sustainable mix of local residents, of all ages and abilities, and students living in harmony.



  1. To change the imbalance towards student accommodation back to a sustainable, balanced community;
  2. To provide housing designed for the needs of older people and for people with disabilities;
  3. To provide affordable housing for all sectors of the community, but particularly for families with children and young people starting out.

4.4.2 Context

4.132 Durham City’s setting in a surrounding green bowl is of paramount importance. Development of all kinds should be encouraged up to its physical limits. Major physical constraints within the City include the River Wear, its floodplain and its gorge. The scale and design of new buildings need to respect the City’s heritage and topography, especially regarding the World Heritage Site and the two Conservation Areas. These special Durham factors require that the best use is made of every piece of land within the urban area and especially the development of ‘brownfield’ land and the protection of green and attractive open spaces. The over-riding consideration that applies to all development proposals in Our Neighbourhood, including all forms of residential development, is that there shall be no harm to the historic environment, most notably the setting of the World Heritage Site.

4.133 When work started our Neighbourhood Plan there were sites within the urban area capable of providing over 1,500 additional dwellings. However, many of these have subsequently been approved for the construction of Purpose Built Student Accommodation. The few remaining sites are therefore extremely precious; it is imperative that our Neighbourhood Plan uses the sites within Our Neighbourhood to contribute as much as possible to the provision of appropriate new dwellings for Durham City as a whole.

4.134 One of the strongest concerns expressed in consultations has been the ‘studentification’ of former family housing areas of Durham; the NPPF (para. 50) expects planning bodies to aim to create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities. The severe imbalance in parts of Durham City is damaging to community relations, to quality of life and to the future sustainability of schools, shops and other services and facilities.

4.135 A further issue now emerging is that the University of Durham (2016) is developing its Masterplan for the growth of the University over the next 10 years. This will be helpful in displaying the University’s aspirations for physical development. If adopted it will, however, further squeeze the very limited availability of sites for various forms of residential development.

4.136 Our Neighbourhood Plan does not have a quantitative ‘target’ for the numbers of dwelling units required for each kind of housing need. Although the new Durham County Plan will set the housing need figure for the whole County and for its five sub-areas, it will not specify figures of need for Our Neighbourhood. To at least be able to retain the long-term number of residents we would need sites for at least 200 additional dwellings (from Appendix D, Housing sites).

4.137 We do set out qualitative needs: the County’s population age structure is projected to shift dramatically (Office for National Statistics, 2016), with the numbers aged 75 and over increasing by over 60% from being 8.6% of the total population in 2014 to 13% in 2033. This makes the provision of suitable accommodation for older people a particular priority. Nevertheless, there are other categories of provision that will be needed, including students, families with children, professionals and people starting out in the housing market.

4.4.3 Justification

4.138 This justification refers to the Housing theme as a whole. Additional, specific justification for each housing policy is given with the policy itself.

4.139 The results of the Forum survey looking at the public’s views about what is good, bad and needs to change about the City (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2015) emphasised housing as a key issue. In particular, there is an urgent need to redress the huge imbalance towards student accommodation, and the various problems this causes and to provide more housing (e.g. affordable housing; housing for families of various kinds including families with children; older people; and young professionals). The particular importance of ensuring provision for families with children is to restore and sustain community balance, inclusiveness and sustainability, notably with regard to school places and children’s and parent’s facilities.

4.140 The NPPF (para.47) states the need for the local Council to identify a supply of specific, deliverable sites (the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA)) in the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development. The aims are to meet household and population projections, address the need for all types of housing including affordable housing, address the needs of different groups in the community (including families with children and older people) (NPPF para.50), and create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities. However, the Council should also protect the Green Belt (NPPF paras.87-90) and encourage reuse of brownfield land (NPPF, para.111).

4.141 The recent White Paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2017a) aims to boost housing supply and, over the long term, create a more efficient housing market. It proposes to prioritise the use of brownfield land, incentivise housing for rent, encourage the smaller development firms, discourage ‘land-banking’ and promote good design.

4.142 The Sustainable Communities Strategy for County Durham 2014-2030 (County Durham Partnership, 2014) has a section ‘Altogether greener’ with the aim of promoting sustainable design and protecting Durham’s heritage.

4.143 The Durham City Regeneration Masterplan (Durham County Council, 2014c) and its update (Durham County Council, 2016f) have a number of implementation projects and actions relevant to housing in Our Neighbourhood (a subset of the Durham City area covered by the Masterplan), i.e. ensuring services are in place including schools, and plan for housing allocations in the Green Belt and on brownfield sites. The Masterplan update notes what has been delivered and outlines key future activities. Completed projects include the introduction of an Article 4 direction and an Interim Student Accommodation Policy. Housing allocation plans will be updated in the next SHLAA and the emerging County Local Plan.

4.144 Appendix D (Population, Households, Housing Sites) provides statistics and discussion on population and households in Our Neighbourhood.

4.4.4 Planning Policies and Proposals for Land Use


  • Policy D1: Land for Residential Development
  • Policy D2: Student Accommodation in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO)
  • Policy D3: Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)
  • Policy D4: Housing for Older People and People with Disabilities
  • Policy D5: Meeting Other Housing Needs
  • Policy D6: Design of New and Renovated Housing to the Highest Standards

Next section: Policy D1: Land for Residential Development

2 Responses to Theme 4: A City With Attractive and Affordable Places to Live

  1. John Lowe says:

    Conversations with members of the public at drop-in events showed that an overriding concern of local long-term residents was the disruptive behaviour of university students late at night in residential areas. Controlling student behaviour is obviously beyond the scope of the neighbourhood plan, but housing policies that lead to more balanced communities will surely help.

  2. Lucy says:

    Given rising longevity across the UK I welcome Policies D4 and D5, wholeheartedly support Policies D2 and D3.