Wins and losses as campaigners take on developers over student accommodation

Campaigners have failed to stop a family home being converted to student flats – but did see the extension of a separate student property blocked.

Monday, 6th July 2020, 12:21 pm

Durham County Council’s planning department had recommended proposals to remodel the property in Cedar Drive, in Durham City, for use as a HMO (House in Multiple Occupation).

But the scheme faced opposition over concerns including traffic, the number of houses in the street already converted to HMOs and fears ‘student lifestyle is diametrically opposed’ to that of the families already living there.

Coun Paul Taylor said: “This is a lovely family area and I’m against the proliferation of business opportunities to force students into family areas.

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A view up Cedar Drive in Durham

“That said, we’re struggling here because it’s permitted development.

“I’m very happy to put together an alternative case, but in this case I feel we’re struggling and I regret that.”

Coun Taylor was speaking at a meeting of the county council’s Area Planning Committee for central and east County Durham, which was held by videolink.

Despite concerns raised by some councillors however, planning officers insisted a planned extension at the back of the property was ‘of a reasonable scale’ and ‘sympathetic’ to the area.

The council’s highways department also claimed parking provision was acceptable, while permission was not required to convert the home to a HMO, prompting the committee to approve the plans with eight votes to four.

A separate application to extend an existing HMO in Whinney Hill, increasing it from four bedrooms to six, was also put to the panel with another recommendation from the planning department for approval.

According to a report for the committee, council tax data showed two fifths of properties within 100 metres of the site are already designated student homes, prompting Coun Taylor to warn Whinney Hill risked being ‘lost as a residential area’.

He backed a proposal by Coun David Freeman to reject the scheme, which was narrowly supported by the rest of the committee, seven votes to five.

After hearing evidence and legal advice however, councillors did not feel able to turn down a third application seeking a ‘certificate of lawful use’ to turn a house into a HMO, which was approved by seven votes to three.

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