Development slammed by students and residents

the village at the viaductBy

Around 90 students have moved into brand new accommodation on Ainsley Street only to find that major exterior and interior building work is still ongoing, with many students describing the development as a “building site.”

The students, who are paying between £125 and £195 per week on a 52-week contract, have told Palatinate about their anger over builders entering their rooms unannounced, the lack of outside lighting and the safety of the fire evacuation procedure.

The £17m development, which has been named ‘The Village @ The Viaduct’, has massively overrun, with students originally being told that the development was due to be finished by August.

The construction company have now given Friday 24th October as a date for completion.

Many tenants who spoke to Palatinate refused to give their names in fear of aggravating their landlord, Universal Student Living.

One tenant, an undergraduate Physics student who pays £125 per week, said:

“I don’t think it’s right that students have been moved in when building work isn’t finished. It’s unfair how they disguised the fact that there’s work going on until you actually get here. They’re being dishonest.

“There’s also no outside lighting that’s working which is quite dangerous and there’s no real fire exits, just a set of stairs.”

A Maths student added:

“It’s unfair how they disguised the fact that there’s work going on until you actually get here. They’re being dishonest.

“I was really annoyed because I rang up before arriving to ask if there would be any work happening and I was told that it was only finishing touches but it’s still a building site with major work ongoing.

“When I arrived my washing machine wasn’t working either but I didn’t have anywhere else to go so I had to stay.”

Another tenant told Palatinate:

“I was really disappointed when I arrived. There are machines and cars all over the site and sometimes workmen just knock on your door to complete work that isn’t finished.”

Chloe, the only student  spoken to by Palatinate willing to give their name said:

“I was really disappointed when I arrived to find teams of workmen still on site. I think everyone was. It’s just not right to have students paying for something that isn’t finished.”

The Accommodation Manager at ‘The Village’ responded to students’ and residents’ concerns, saying:

“I don’t think it’s a building site. There’s no scaffolding. I can appreciate that it was not what students were expecting but we’ve tried to be open with students before they arrived. We know there’s been ups and downs but we’ve worked very hard to deliver an outstanding service to students.”

The development, which has been named ‘The Village @ The Viaduct’ by Universal Student Living, has also attracted criticism from residents in Durham City.

One resident on Waddington Street, Jackie Levitas, told Palatinate:

“If I was a student living on the site I think it would be horrendous. To put them amid all that noise and machinery is unfair and not right.”

Mike Costello, a resident in the Viaduct, shared these concerns:

“We’re very worried about the safety of the students. They’re living on a building site – is there a fire certificate? What’s the evacuation procedure? Usually a site of this size would have assembly points for evacuation on site.

“None of it has been planned well. The first project manager walked out within weeks which speaks for itself really. The construction company are in it for the money and have no real care for the students.”

He added:

“We’ve been in touch with the University and had absolutely no response. As a collegiate university Durham should be building more accommodation for its students.”

Professor Graham Towl, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Warden responded to this, commenting:

“As a collegiate University we offer all first year students accommodation. Some second and third year undergraduates and postgraduates live in our Colleges. However, we recognise that many of our students welcome the opportunity, particularly in the second year to live out as part of their overall University experience.

“Private providers of accommodation have, overall, more variable pricing and, as a sector, more varied accommodation offers.

“If our students would like us to increase our College accommodation further it would be a conversation that we would be delighted to have.”

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