Gown town: Durham locals fear losing Crossgate in their city to ‘studentification’

 

Crossgate in Durham is used to invasions. In 1346 the Scots army poured across the border hoping to catch the English napping as they prepared to battle the old foe France, while in industrial times a towering viaduct was driven through the area, bringing with it the thundering trains of the east coast mainline.

The most recent incursion has been scholastic in nature, but equally unsettling for those who still live in this historic city centre suburb.

It is estimated there are just 400 non-student households left in a community that was until recently home to 2,000 permanent residents. In some streets all but a handful of what were once desirable family homes are now let out in term time, most of them occupied by five or six students, standing empty for nearly half the year.

Those who are refusing to move out of the area, just a short stroll from the World Heritage Site of Durham Cathedral and Castle, include the novelist Pat Barker. But as the students have moved in, local shops have closed and families have shifted out.

The area has become, it is claimed, noisy and dirty and locked in a vicious cycle of “studentification”.

Now locals fear that what remains of their identity is about to be lost with the creation of a giant development on the site of the old Durham County Hospital. Developers are hoping to create 73 student studios in the refurbished Victorian psychiatric wards, while building an additional 367-bedroom accommodation block on the same site. It is an addition to a 200-bedroom student accommodation block under construction on adjacent land.

The university has opposed the development, complaining that the residences lack facilities. But it is accused of continuing to increase student numbers in this small, compact city with little or no regard for the lives of those who live there permanently.

Mike Costello, a retired IT specialist, who has lived in Crossgate since the 1980s, is now in one of only six non-student households in his street. “There are now two separate communities with totally different lifestyles. It feels overwhelming,” he said. Mike Costello says locals feel ‘overwhelmed’ Mike Costello says locals feel ‘overwhelmed’

A trustee of the Crossgate Community Partnership, which wants mixed use for the old hospital, he said relations between the university and the community were “very poor”. “It’s really gone over the edge in the past three or four years,” he said. “This has always been seen as a student ghetto, but with expansion it has become much worse.” 

Durham, a city of about 47,000, is also home to a university with a full-time student body of 15,000. The number of undergraduates has increased from 7,385 in 1999 to more than 12,000 this year, spread across the two sites in Durham and Queen’s Campus, Stockton, though most students prefer to live in the city.

Elizabeth David, 40, graduated with a degree in education from Durham 20 years ago and has chosen to stay in the city to raise her two children. “It is about creating a balanced community and not allowing the area to become a student ghetto,” she said.

“For families it should be a great place to live because there is so much going for it. But so many streets have become student-only and there is always the fear that the house next door to you will become a student house.”

Durham’s pro vice-chancellor, professor Graham Towl, said: “Although the university did not support the planning application associated with the development plans at the former County Hospital site, it is generally supportive of the development of high-quality purpose-built student accommodation in Durham city centre; provided it has sufficient social and learning space and is to be managed in such a way as to minimise disruption to other residents.”

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before