Durham County Council approve plans for new college at Rushford Court

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Durham County Council have given Unite Students and Durham University planning approval to convert Rushford Court, a student accommodation block near the Viaduct, into a college of Durham University. The approval was given by the Council’s planning committee in a unanimous vote on the 30th March.

It will first act as the temporary home for the College of St Hild and St Bede during the refurbishment of their current home on Leases Road. Following this, it will become a University college in its own right, as Durham University’s 18th College. Work is due to begin this summer, with the site scheduled to be handed over to the University next year.

Work is due to begin this summer, with the site scheduled to be handed over to the University next year

The complex first opened as County Hospital in 1853, and closed in 2010 following the opening of Lanchester Road Hospital just outside Durham city. It first opened as student accommodation in 2018 (following delays as planning permission was originally rejected in 2014), and includes 348 bedrooms.

The University has utilised Rushford Court in the past; during the 2019-2020 academic year, the complex acted as the temporary home of John Snow College following the closure of the Stockton campus and prior to their permanent home on Mount Oswald being completed.

Unite Students, the current owners of the site, have announced that the existing building will be upgraded to include college staff offices as well as welfare and study spaces. Additionally, a new building known as “the hub” will include common rooms, study areas and a college bar. The site’s pre-existing gym, cinema room and games area will remain in place once it becomes a college.

Following the approval, Unite Students said in a statement that “Work, in partnership with Durham University, to upgrade the property will begin this summer. Unite Students will continue to operate the building while work is carried out, with residents staying at the property.

“In unanimously approving the plans, the council’s committee said biodiversity and carbon reduction were both above and beyond the required levels, and the proposal reduced the pressure on permanent residents as well as the risk of loss of houses to HMOs (houses in multiple occupation).

“In unanimously approving the plans, the council’s committee said […] the proposal reduced the pressure on permanent residents as well as the risk of loss of houses to HMOs”

Unite Students

“The chair of the committee added the plans were a “positive step forward” for the university and the city of Durham.”

Tom Brewerton, the Unite Students Group Development Director said that “It’s great that Durham County Council has recognised the benefits of this plan to upgrade Rushford Court.

“We’re proud to be working in partnership with Durham University on this project, which we hope will lead to the creation of a university college.

“We’re pleased to be able to support Durham University in this way and look forward to continuing to work closely together going forward and strengthening our partnership.”

“It enables the university to continue our fantastic working relationship with Unite Students and create a new college community environment from which our current and future students will feel a number of benefits”

Jeremy Cook

Additionally, Jeremy Cook, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Colleges and Student Experience at Durham University, added that “We are delighted with the decision made by Durham County Council.

“It enables the university to continue our fantastic working relationship with Unite Students and create a new college community environment from which our current and future students will feel a number of benefits.

“This planned development also enables us to continue our planned redevelopment of existing college sites and provide an investment into the life blood of our university, which is our family of colleges.”

Image: M J Richardson, edited by Tim Packer, via Wikimedia Commons

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