Summary: Theme 4: A City with Attractive and Affordable Places to Live

The rampant expansion of student accommodation in recent times into all parts of Our Neighbourhood is by far the greatest source of dissatisfaction of residents of Durham. It not only causes disruption to their lives but also has consumed nearly all larger housing sites that might have been used to create much needed general housing, including affordable housing. The University is planning further growth which will cause more pressure for accommodation. The national policy of creating sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities has been sadly undermined and new policies have to be included in this plan in order to achieve better outcomes in future.

Policy D1: Land for Residential Development

With sites for over 1500 homes recently approved for student accommodation, every remaining site is precious. Land is needed for at least 200 dwellings in the Plan period with dwellings for the growing proportion of the elderly a particular priority. It is only possible to identify seven sites which could provide for 521 dwellings. The largest site by far is the former government offices at Milburngate House of 440 units with small sites at Whinney Hill (former Johnson School) at John Street, the Bernard Gilpin site at The Sands, Main Street U.S.A., Offices at Diamond Terrace, and The Avenue. There are a further four sites where various problems are preventing them from currently becoming available which could provide for 38 units.

Full policy here.

Policy D2: Student Accommodation in Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO)

The spread of conversions to student accommodation needs to be far more strictly controlled. Under this critical policy, applications to convert to an HMO will not be approved if more than 10% of the total properties within 100 metres are already HMOs or student accommodation, or if the student population exceeds 20% in the same area.

Full policy here.

Policy D3: Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSAs)

All developers will be required to prove that there is a genuine need and that there has been full consultation with the education provider. There will need to be proof that no negative impacts will result from the development. It will have to be in conformity with the standards in Policy D2 above, and be adjacent to existing academic, hospital or research sites and meet stringent design standards.

Full policy here.

Policy D4: Housing for Older People and People with Disabilities

There has been a complete absence of provision for this group in recent years at the same time as their numbers increase. To help with this deficiency, the new policy will require 10% of appropriate housing units, or more, to be provided on sites of 10 or more housing units. Adaptations of houses and flats to enable residents to continue independent living will normally be allowed, subject to being in keeping with the building and surroundings.

Full policy here.

Policy D5: Meeting Other Housing Needs

To change the imbalance arising from the dominance of student and executive housing, this policy requires that on any housing site, 15% of the units must be affordable housing to provide opportunities for young professionals, young couples starting out, families with children, and older people where appropriate.

Full policy here.

Policy D6: Design of New and Renovated Housing to the Highest Standards

To meet Our Neighbourhood’s sustainability criteria and national standards of design, developers will be required to add to the overall quality of the area, respond to the local strong sense of place, local character and history as well as being visually attractive. All housing developments will need to meet at least the national accepted Building for Life criteria.

Full policy here.

Next section: Summary. Theme 5: A City with a Modern and Sustainable Transport Infrastructure

3 Responses to Summary: Theme 4: A City with Attractive and Affordable Places to Live

  1. Dr. Gwendolynn Heley says:

    Unfortunately, I am unable to study this lengthy proposal in any real detail. I cannot see a useful overseeable summary to help me.

    When the issues are so many, and so complex it becomes too difficult to do justice to the enormous efforts made by those compiling this work. I cannot take the time to get to grips with all this.

    So if it is any use I can tell you what I think about a few issues that effect me and my family.

    Student housing is a problem because in Gilesgate we have lost so many neighbours. While many students are nice, they just come and go. It is such a transient population.
    The restrictions on properties of multiple student occupation are not working at all. We lost our old neighbour’s home to an 11 double bedroom student house (formerly residential at 97 Gilesgate). And now the small medieval narrow croft at the rear of this large student house, with an old garden and trees, will be lost too, as a three storey – 6 double bedroom student house will be squashed into the same property as this 11 double bedroom property. Gross overcrowding. What is really going on?

    Residents cannot do without cars. I cannot bike hills. Bike routes run out into busy traffic. They don’t work in their current form. I walk where ever I can. Public transport simply does not work for so many trips most of us need to make. Of all those proposing more and more money being used to extend public transport, can they tell me how many of them as individuals still depend on a car and own one? Don’t be hypocritical please.

    Safe cross-walks are desperately needed. Those who walk, like me, cannot even cross roads safely. We need a cross-walk right on Gilesgate Green between the bus stops. And yes, you can put one in. We have to run three lanes now thanks to speeding cars and buses! It is wrong priorities – pedestrians need to cross roads! The traffic is endless and getting worse every year.

    Get rid of To Let signs for students. The students don’t use them. People look on-line. Especially students. They look awful and the endless drilling and wall plugging is damaging buildings. They break in the wind and fall down and add to the litter.

    Students are often sympathetic to residents problems. Help them to join in making lives easier where ever they can. The students often don’t agree with Uni policies! They have as little say as the rest of us ordinary folk. The Council is working with developers and probably some people are doing very well at the expense of the common good of the city. Who are these powerful people? Time to name them, and examine what they are doing, why, and who is benefitting!

    Litter is one of the biggest shameful messes this city has. A few examples: Students throw stuff on local paths in Pelaw woods on the way to Maiden Castle sports fields. Fishermen leave (often dangerous hooks/ line) rubbish along the river. Locals don’t clean up the areas in front of their own houses as they see it as the work of Council – so it gets left and blown into rivers, and ends up in the trees, in fields, on verges, and of course in the sea. Residents should help to clean the city and so should students staying in our neighbourhoods. How can this be organised? Change begins at home!

    That’s probably enough from me.

  2. James A Cowan says:

    The current policy, that of the County Council, to approve an ever increasing number of buildings to be occupied by the students of Durham University has been recognised and criticised for many years and yet new student accomodation, some of it in the very centre of the ‘City, for example Claypath, keeps appearing. Moreover, the University, fully aware of the problem that they have created, have now decided to ‘import’ another 2,000 students from their campus at Stockton on Tees. In the meantime there has been no apparent effort to build affordable family housing in the ‘City, or to cater for the increasing number of senior residents who may wish to occupy apartments close to the city centre. The new location of student accomodation in Claypath would have been ideal for apartments for senior citizens.

  3. Ruth Rutter says:

    All new houses should be built to conserve as much energy as possible. This will make them cheaper to run and help the environment. We absolutely must try to return houses built for families to families. I agree with this policy.