By Luke Payne
Durham’s largest ever private student residence is planned for the field adjacent to John Snow and South Colleges on Mount Oswald. The development will provide an additional 850 beds across eleven buildings up to four stories tall.
The site is planned by The Banks Group, the construction group behind South and John Snow Colleges. The proposed development sits between the new colleges and a residential housing estate to the west of the Mount Oswald site.
Outline planning permission for the site was originally granted in 2018 but since then The Banks Group have struggled to identify a strategic partner to take the project forward. They then reapplied for planning permission at the end of 2020 to find time to progress the development.
At capacity, the development would almost double the number of students on the Mount Oswald site. Concerns over the size of the student cohort have led to residents of Mount Oswald housing estate submitting objections to the development.
Many residents have voiced concerns about noise and poor student behaviour. One resident claimed that the development would have a “considerable negative impact on our community and family life.”
Another concern was in relation to increased traffic from students bringing their cars to Durham. Many residents claimed that students from John Snow and South were parking in the housing estate and using up visitor spaces. Many believe the issues will get worse if the planned development goes ahead.
Residents also believe, even without the planned development, there are already insufficient facilities to support existing residents of the area. Several residents said there was a lack of retail and green space offering. Some suggested that the site should instead be used to support existing residents.
Durham University submitted a statement supporting the original application in 2017, claiming “there is a clear demand for greater choice of good quality accommodation” and that the site “relates well to land within the Durham University Estate”.
When approached for comment, Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, said: “The Mount Oswald development was designed by Banks in support of the County Council’s vision of Durham City acting as a driver of economic growth in the county and it is continuing to evolve into the type of high-quality community that we’d originally envisaged.
“Including first class, purpose-built student accommodation has been central to the Mount Oswald development’s design right from the outset, with the need for it being clearly identified in both the Durham Local Plan and Durham University’s long-term development strategy.
“The planning application was previously consented in 2017 after going through the required planning approval process, which included a detailed examination of every aspect of our proposals.
“Other than the addition of updated survey information, nothing has changed within the proposals since then and it remains wholly fit for purpose, but with construction having been delayed by the pandemic, a renewal of the planning approval is now required.
“We will continue to engage with all parties through the renewal process and hope to be able to make further progress on this project in the near future.
“Work on the substantial green infrastructure at Mount Oswald is continuing, with several footpaths and cycleways now being opened up to the public and enhancements being made to the 18 acres of public open space within the site.
“As a long-established Durham-based family firm, we are proud to be driving forward an excellent scheme which will have long-term positive impacts on many levels for the city, the University and the wider region.”
Photo Credit: Luke Payne