Gown town: Durham locals fear losing 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.

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.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Executive / Marketing Assistant

£18 - 23k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Executive / Assistant is n...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider to the fa...

Ashdown Group: Graduate IT Analyst - Global ERP Implementation - London

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful & reputable global business is l...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

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

Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map