Application to demolish Gilesgate Bingo hall approved

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Durham County Council have voted in favour of plans to build private student accommodation on the site of Apollo Bingo Hall in Gilesgate. The bingo hall, located on Sherburn Road in Gilesgate, was sold last year to developers.

Durham County Council received 35 letters objecting and five supporting the plan for the building. Objectors included City of Durham MP Mary Foy as did all three Belmont councillors, Belmont Parish Council, City of Durham Trust and Gilesgate Residents’ Association.

Councillors voted 10-2 for the plans, with 1 abstention. In a meeting on the 11th January, Councillors discussed university expansion, housing needs, and the effect of the development on the local area.

“I think we run the risk here of having a derelict building”

Councillor Carl Marshall

Councillor Carl Marshall supported the plan, “I think we run the risk here of having a derelict building that will attract anti-social behaviour and decline within the community.”

A campaign led by ACORN, a community union, had previously expressed concern about the plans:

“The proposed plans involve the repurposing of a leisure space – which has been enjoyed for over 80 years – from communal to exclusive use.”

“There has been little to no consultation with local residents by developers regarding these plans. This development is not supported by the local community who lament the lack of affordable housing for themselves and their children, the decades-long removal of community spaces in the city, and their lack of influence on such matters.”

MP Mary Foy said: “Such a development is completely incongruous with the wider setting in which it is proposed and is not in keeping with the surrounding area.”

“Such a development is completely incongruous with the wider setting in which it is proposed”

Mary Foy, City of Durham MP

Councillor Kevin Shaw said that the needs of the expanding student population had to be met.

“This site provides an opportunity to resolve a problem and deliver a benefit. The building has been identified as unviable and a solution is clearly needed.”

ACORN suggested that the proposals would also not be of benefit to students, arguing that “most of the affiliated and private student residences are prohibitively expensive for many students.”

Mary Foy also highlighted similar issues of unaffordability: “It is extremely disappointing that an application has come forward that is not only unsuitable for the local community, but it is also unsuitable for the student population it is intended to attract.”

Palatinate revealed last year that students face increasing rents amid “quickest housing rush in five years”.

“Both students and non-students could benefit from the provision of decent, dignified, and affordable housing”

Acorn Durham

ACORN told Palatinate that the demolition would exasperate tensions between the local and university communities: “There are undeniably some tensions both between students and non-students, and between local and non-local students. This isn’t likely to be resolved while shops, leisure centres, and other buildings in Durham are increasingly converted from spaces that can be used by all, to those for the exclusive use of students.”

“Both students and non-students could benefit from the provision of decent, dignified, and affordable housing and leisure spaces that are open to all.”

In August, Geoff Paul, Durham County Council’s interim head of development and housing said in response to critique: “When assessing applications for any new development, we liaise closely with all relevant stakeholders and infrastructure providers to ensure the impact of development is properly considered. We will also give careful consideration to all points raised by members of the public.”

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