Durham County Council has approved the development of 659 new student homes, following the publication of research showing a 5% rise in private student accommodation fees since March 2014.
The plans include Student Castle’s £50 million plans for a 445-room development on lower Claypath and 214 rooms in Kepier Court.
The new complex would be up to seven storeys at the rear and three at the frontage onto Claypath, with student rooms also arranged around a courtyard to the rear.
The Claypath development is hoped to be completed for students by 2017 and involves plans for the construction of a gym and small cinema.
The development proposes the demolition and relocation of the existing buildings on the 18-29 Claypath site including Oldfields restaurant, Kwik Fit, and Durham City Snooker Club and Warm Sanctuary.
Student Castle will run the accommodation, independent of any Durham University college.
The application for the development in Claypath narrowly passed by six votes for the proposal, compared to five votes against.
It is further proposed that the Kepier Court development, that housed postgraduate students until 2005, will be demolished to enable the development of four new buildings. These would comprise 98 bedrooms across 19 cluster flats, of four to six rooms each, and 116 self-contained studio flats.
Kepier House, a former prison, would remain to house communal facilities and offices.
Conversely, the Durham County Council Planning Committee rejected proposals for a 363-room development on the site of the former County Hospital on North Road.
The proposals, which included 81 studio flats and two accommodation blocks containing 282 flats, had received 130 objections.
The announcement of the planning committee’s decisions faced animosity from local residents who heckled councillors following the confirmation of the Kepier Court development.
Both plans were rejected by Durham University, with the University only forecasting increasing student numbers by 59 students by the start of the 2019/2020 term.
Professor Graham Towl, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Warden, told Palatinate: “The University is reviewing its position”.
Following the announcement to raise college accommodation fees by 8% for the 2015/16 academic year, research from the student property search engine StuRents has displayed that private student accommodation fees in Durham have risen from £89.58pppw (per person per week) to £94.17pppw between March 2014 to March 2015, at a rate of over 5%.
Consequently, a four student house-share now costs £954.72 a year more than this time in 2014, leading to Durham students paying the second largest premium of over 31% for houses in Britain compared to non-students.
Durham students pay an average of £94.17 per person per week (pppw) for private accommodation compared to non-students in the same areas of the city paying an average of £71.42pppw.
Tom Walker, Co-Founder of ‘StuRents’, commented: “The news of rising prices for private housing will only compound Durham University’s existing worries about its accommodation situation.
“Now student protesters are even handing out literature to the parents of prospective undergraduates warning them of the rising (and they claim unjustified) costs of university-owned accommodation.
“Today’s news therefore is clear – the private sector is following trend.”
Similar concerns arose from Harry Cross and Sofia Hewson, co-Chairs of Durham Students for University Reform (DS4UR) who commented: “The rise in private rents is a direct result of rent hikes by the University, the largest landlord in the City of Durham.
“This has created a rent crisis in Durham that hurts both students and permanent residents. It is a major factor pricing people out of studying at Durham.”
Photograph: Venus Loi