C.11 At the time of the 2011 Census there were 20,616 people in 5,410 households in Our Neighbourhood, representing a crude overall household size in 2011 of 3.811. This displays the severely distorting effects of student households. The number of non-student households is estimated on the basis of the County average household size to be about 4,200.

C.12 The University’s figures show that there were 12,733 students in the academic year 2011/12 and there are now 18,707 as at December 2018. These figures show that 11,882 of this number live outside of Colleges, nearly all in rented accommodation – either Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSAs) or in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

C.13 The area at the time of the 2011 Census with the highest concentration of students (87%) is 030G – the Hill colleges and Houghall. Here there were 4,494 persons comprising 3,924 students and 570 long-term residents.

C.14 Owner-occupation is 53% (as compared with 66% for County Durham as a whole); 8% is social housing (20% in County Durham); and private rental is 36% whereas for County Durham it is just 12%. These comparisons indicate that housing tenure in Our Neighbourhood is distinctly shaped by student rentals.

C.15 If we aspire to a stable long-term population in Our Neighbourhood of 9,700 right through our Neighbourhood Plan period then, at national rates of household size decline, there would be about 4,400 households in 2035. This calculated increase of about 200 households therefore requires at least 200 more dwellings over the period in order for the resident population of Our Neighbourhood to be able to stay at 9,700.


C.16 The base-line figures for the numbers of University of Durham students – undergraduates and postgraduates, full-time and part-time – are for 2018/19:

Table C6: Accommodation type and student numbers 2018/19

Accommodation type

At home























Note 1: 417 students in the School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health transferred from the Stockton campus to Newcastle University at the end of the 2016/17 academic year, and the Stockton campus closed at the end of the 2017/18 academic year with all remaining students transferring to Durham.

* Note 2: in addition, two PBSAs are currently occupied as Colleges and together have a capacity of 577 students, which increases the total in “Colleges” to 7,402 and the percentage ‘living-in’ to 40% -see paragraph C18.

Source: Durham University, Student Registry, Online Statistics, College Statistics, Accommodation (numbers surveyed in December 2018: Table 1.9 Term time accommodation)


C.17 Durham University (2016, 2017a) has published its Strategy and Estate Masterplan for the development of the University over the decade 2016/17 to 2026/27. The key points are to base the majority of the 2,500 students from the Stockton Queen’s Campus in Durham City, joining the 15,500 students already in the City in 2016/17, and to increase the student population to 21,500 by 2027. The Masterplan states that the University will have an additional 4,000 students, maximum, by 2026/27. It follows that the number to be accommodated in Durham City is planned to increase by about 6,000 between 2016/17 and 2026/27. This is an approximately 40% increase.

C.18 Expansion of student numbers has seen reduction in the percentage of students housed in university accommodation with consequent loss of family homes to HMOs. Durham University has a special appeal for being, amongst many qualities, a ‘Collegiate’ University. The University aims to increase the proportion of students living in University accommodation from 40% at present (see footnote to Table C6) to between 50% and 55% in 2026/27. On that basis, there would need to be an increase in University accommodation from the present (2018/19) level of 7,402 beds to up to 11,825 (55% of 21,500) beds in University accommodation in 2026/27 i.e. about +4,400 beds.

C.19 The University is currently constructing a new 1,000-bed College at Mount Oswald. It is therefore necessary to identify sites for up to a further 3,400 beds in University accommodation somewhere in Durham City. There were, as of the base date of 2019, under construction, approved or proposed PBSAs (purpose built student accommodation) in Our Neighbourhood for over 2,500 extra bed-spaces (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, Large student residences 2019). The six additional PBSA sites (Map 6) proposed by the University could perhaps provide in total a further 2,000 bed-spaces. Thus some 4,500 additional PBSA bed-spaces can be expected, not including speculative PBSA schemes elsewhere in Our Neighbourhood and beyond. Thus, it would seem that there is just about sufficient PBSA/College accommodation built or in the pipeline to meet the growth plans of the University up to the year 2026/27.

C.20 However, under current interpretations, privately-built PBSAs do not count as ‘living-in’ University accommodation and thereby fail to contribute to the University’s aim of up to 55% living-in. To address this, the University is entering into partnership arrangements and some PBSAs have been classified as College-affiliated and thereby ‘living-in’. Current examples are Rushford Court being occupied as John Snow College, and New Kepier Court being part of University College (Castle).

C.21 It must be noted that some of the PBSAs are unsatisfactory in design and/or location to be adopted by the University, and some are not 100% occupied. It is therefore essential that some of the six additional PBSA sites proposed by the University are approved, built and successful and are adopted by the University to qualify as ‘living-in’ accommodation in order to meet the ‘living-in’ shortfall and also to provide choice and competition.

Table C7: Purpose built student accommodation: construction status

Name / location

Status: Up and running as at August 2019


St Margarets Flats

Built by St John’s College in 1994, sold on to Empiric Student Property and refurbished in 2017

109 bedrooms, in 22 flats in 5 blocks

Elvet Studios (Green Lane)

Opened September 2013

112 apartments

City Block (formerly The Village @ The Viaduct) (Ainsley Street)

Opened October 2014

223 beds

Ward Court (formerly Neville’s Cross Club)

Opened autumn 2015

36 apartments

Chapel Heights (A690, Gilesgate)

Opened September 2016

198 beds

St Giles Studios (110 Gilesgate)

Opened September 2016

109 beds

New Kepier Court

Opened September 2017

214 rooms, a mixture of “cluster apartments and studios”

Ernest Place (Renny’s Lane)

Opened August 2017
NB This site is outside Our Neighbourhood

345 beds

Neville House / Sheraton House (Neville’s Cross)

Ustinov College relocated to here. Opened 2017

418 beds

Duresme House (formerly Berendsen Laundry) (Neville’s Cross)

Opened Autumn 2018

A 277 room student ‘eco village’

Dunholm House (The Riverwalk)

Opened Autumn 2018

253 beds

Rushford Court (formerly County Hospital)

Opened Autumn 2018
John Snow College for the Academic Year 2019/20

363 beds

Houghall Court (East Durham College, Houghall campus)

Opened Autumn 2018, managed by Unite Students

222 beds


2,879 beds

Name / location

Status: Under construction, expected to open in the Academic year 2019/20


Student Castle (Lower Claypath)

Construction nearing completion. Planning application approved to increase number of beds from 445 to 473; 47 of these will be available on an aparthotel basis when not occupied by students. Opening September 2019

473 beds

Former Post Office (Silver Street)

Conversion to provide 17 self-contained apartments, approved December 2017 and construction nearing completion

17 apartments

Name / location

Status: In the pipeline, expected to open in the Academic year 2020/21 or later


Mount Oswald (Durham University)

New John Snow College and another new college, currently under construction, to be completed in Summer 2020

1,000 beds

Name / location

Status: Approved but not started


Back Silver Street

13 flats and 5 studio apartments, to be managed by Q Student, approved 16 November 2016 but construction has not started

56 beds

Mount Oswald (Banks)

Outline planning application approved in January 2018 for land adjacent to the University’s site

850 beds

The Three Tuns (New Elvet)

Former hotel, planning application to increase the capacity from 50 to 168 beds approved June 2019

168 beds



Proposed allocations for PBSAs

Six sites in Policy D2

Unspecified but could amount to 2,000 additional beds


Perhaps 4,500


C.22 The corollary of the University’s aspiration for between 50% and 55% of its students to ‘live in’ is that up to 50% would ‘live out’. In 2026/27 this would amount to 10,750 students ‘living out’. At present a total of 11,882 live out, a significant increase from previous years as a result of the rapid emergence of large privately-built PBSAs. Thus the University’s plans would imply some 1,100 fewer bed spaces outside of University and University-affiliated accommodation will be needed. This would be a very welcome return of some HMOs back to year-long residents. It also shows no numerical need for more student HMOs in Durham City.

C.23 There is, however, an important issue on what students themselves prefer by way of accommodation. First year students are encouraged to ‘live in’. Thereafter, they can choose, and the indications from the Geography Department survey (Durham University, Geography Department, 2015) of students’ accommodation preferences were that most preferred to ‘live-out’. It follows that there may well be a demand for additional HMOs in Durham City which, if met, would further reduce the number of year-long residents and worsen the community imbalance. To avoid this retrograde scenario would require a reduction in the scale and pace of growth envisaged by Durham University, or for the University to require more students to live in College and University-affiliated accommodation.


C.24 Within the long-term resident population in Census year 2011 of 9,700 11% were aged 75 or over as opposed to 8% in the County as a whole. Households with people aged 75 and over are projected to increase by 82% from 2014 to 2039 (Office for National Statistics, 2016a) (with the same percentage in the 2016 household projections (Office for National Statistics, 2018a)).

C.25 The implications for residential accommodation are profound:

  • Downsizing, whether voluntary or compulsory (the ‘bedroom tax’), creates a demand for more smaller dwellings of various kinds – for example, bungalows, apartments, and re-occupation of terraced housing. This in turn releases larger properties which, in Durham City, can be family homes.
  • The increase in independent older people is creating a demand for good quality accommodation located conveniently for services.
  • As independence declines, whether through physical or mental decline, more specialised accommodation is required. This can range from merely the presence on-site of a warden through to full nursing support.
  • From Forum consultations with developers it is clear that there is a market opportunity in Durham City for good quality independent living accommodation.


C.26 Although the Forum’s public consultation (Durham City Neighbourhood Planning Forum, 2015) expressed a particular need for accommodation for these groups, there is a lack of evidence to substantiate the provision that should be made. It may be that some of the high specification PBSAs (purpose built student accommodation) will prove to be attractive to these groups, especially for those who wish to rent so as to remain mobile.

C.27 However, couples starting out are being priced out of the owner-occupier market and this has led to a pre-occupation with providing so-called ‘starter homes’ (defined as costing no more than 80% of prevailing local prices). In Durham City subsidised prices can only be achieved by either setting a percentage requirement within planning policies or by the use of land currently held in the public sector. Both remedies are used nationally.

See also Population and Housing sites

Next section: Housing sites

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