Approval granted for £20m student development

Sheraton House Rendering

DURHAM County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for a student housing development at Sheraton Park, Neville’s Cross, will result in a £420k injection in development funding for the local community.

The decision means that the specialist student housing developer, Alumno Developments, will transform two large, derelict Edwardian buildings on the Sheraton Park Estate into purpose-built student accommodation as well as providing substantial community investment – a landmark contribution for this type of proposal – in the neighbouring area.

The funding will be used for a variety of local initiatives including provision of a public art project, new residential footpaths and the creation of substantial new parkland. There are also plans to develop a community room for local residents and a recreational space in the derelict land between the two buildings. Open to all residents, this will transform a dangerous wasteland into a safe, publicly accessible amenity.

Alumno, a specialist in the design and development of high quality and modern accommodation for students, plans to create and design a ‘lyric reference’ to renowned Durham singer-songwriter Paddy Mcaloon within the landscaped garden. The Prefab Sprout band member commented, “Neville’s cross has special memories and I am flattered to be approached and look forward to seeing further details.”

David Campbell, managing director of Alumno Developments, added, “This decision really is a vote for common sense. Our vision will transform a derelict and dangerous site on a family estate into a sympathetically designed and securely managed university build. As part of this development, the whole community will benefit from almost £500,000 of investment in the local area which will include a community room for residents, provision of a high profile public art project, new residential footpaths and the creation of substantial public parkland.”

Sensitive to the impact that a development can have on any community, Alumno reacted to feedback from the local planning authority and residents and made significant adjustments their initial plans. These included a robust ‘noise management plan’ which proposes a proactive student wardens service on site; a reduction in the number of student bed-spaces to 418; additional car parking spaces and the provision of a residents’ community room.

Alumno supported its plans with independent research that identified a significant shortfall in purpose-built student housing across the city. The report highlighted that Durham University can only house 7,000 of its 15,000 students, with this population expected to rise to 17,000 by 2020. Without Alumno’s development, the city would only be able to provide purpose-built accommodation for around 50 per cent of Durham’s student population.

David Campbell added, “Given the severe shortfall of high quality, purpose-built student accommodation in the city, the development will also go some way in addressing the need for bespoke purpose built accommodation that fits into the collegiate model so unique to Durham. This can also assist the wider need of other tenures by freeing up private sector housing for families and more traditional use. Our proposal offers significant investment in the local area, and we believe this scheme offers a genuine opportunity to bring far reaching benefits for the entire community.”

Work on the project is due to begin in February 2015, with completion in summer 2016.