Plan for new home in city garden gets go ahead despite student accommodation concerns

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Plans to build a new family home in a Durham garden have been approved despite concerns it could be turned into student accommodation.

On Tuesday, Durham County Council’s area planning committee discussed plans for a new house in the garden of 36 The Halgarth in Durham.

The plans – by the trustees of Mrs Doreen Hodgson’s Estate – include a two-storey, three-bed house on existing land with the remaining garden subdivided.

During council consultation, objections were received by City of Durham Trust and neighbours, with 13 letters filed raising concerns about “overdevelopment”, privacy, loss of green space and parking.

The planning committee heard a covenant exists on the land – set by the former Durham City Council – which prevents any buildings being erected without council consent.

At the Durham County Hall meeting, concerns were raised that the building could become a  house in multiple occupation (HMO) with a view of privately letting to students.

Coun David Freeman said: “Residents do have concerns that it could become one after it’s given initial planning permission.”

Summarising the concerns of objectors, the councillor listed privacy distance and the loss of greenfield space as issues but also noted the house was unlikely to have parking due to its location.

Objector Davina Jones also spoke at the meeting on behalf of residents, describing their concerns as “weighty and valid” and the home plan as “shoehorning a house into a landlocked space”.

“The community is fearful that both houses would fall into the hands of student landlords,” she said.

She added the application was “confusing” around parking arrangements – with none on-site – and referenced the applicant’s plans to rent a nearby garage for parking.

In defence of the plan, a speaker from the applicant referenced the application’s history which had been amended over concerns that its size could partially obscure views of Durham Cathedral.

The speaker said he was told by planners a second proposal – aiming to change the existing house into a HMO for students – would not be supported due to an existing planning policy in Durham.

The policy aims to prevent conversions of homes to HMOs due to the high percentage of student accommodation in the area.

The speaker added a tree would be removed to improve views of Durham Cathedral and the home would “act as a counter to many of the family homes turned into HMOs in the city”.

“It has been used as a family home since it was built 50 years ago and will continue to do so in the future.”

Principal planning officer, Chris Baxter, said that if the property was turned into an HMO in future, the planning department would have enforcement powers available.

He added the covenant was not a planning consideration and that the site wasn’t classed as “urban green space” – an area that is viewable to the general public.

Coun Owen Temple said he was concerned over the “shortage of parking” at the site – which is included in a conservation area.

But Coun Ivan Jewell criticised concerns about the loss of green space, stating the site is not available for community use.

Following a committee vote, the application was approved with six councillors voting for the application and five against.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service