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New flats for students in Durham to be built in Victorian mental hospital?

Proposals will see as many as 500 students housed in abandoned mental hospital

Plans are in the pipeline to turn a disused mental health institution into brand new residences for Durham students.

Situated close to several popular clubs off one of the city's main student streets, the former County Hospital housed 50 inpatients until its closure in January 2010.

Dating back to 1853, the imposing Victorian property lies in a conservation area near a nature reserve and includes some listed buildings. Should planning permission be awarded, it could soon become the site of up to 485 university rooms.

A public display in Durham on Saturday saw proposals unveiled inside the old building, following its sale to a trio of property developers earlier this year.

Further detailed consultation is due to take place in coming months but Sandra Manson, director of planning advisors Signet Planning, has insisted that developers are 'very mindful' of the heritage and landscape of the hospital’s site.

Three options have been outlined to residents, centring around the 'retention and restoration' of the hospital building, along with the demolition of 'inappropriate extensions'. The favoured option, expected to cost roughly £20m, would include newly-built accommodation while keeping the 'general green aspect of the site'.

But a third option, closer to the £6m mark, would keep the 1930s extensions and house 280 students in the somewhat spooky existing building.

The university is not involved in the redevelopment plans. Further detailed consultation is scheduled for the coming months.

The Rushford Wing of the former County Hospital in Durham has been run down for nearly four years.