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Unite Students secures planning approval to enhance Rushford Court, Durham

3 April 2023

  • Unite Students’ Rushford Court, in Durham, will be improved and extended with a view to becoming a college of Durham University
  • Planning approval from Durham County Council’s planning committee will further extend the partnership between Unite Students and Durham University
  • Work to upgrade the property will begin this summer, with further work planned in 2024

Unite Students, the UK’s largest provider of student accommodation, has secured planning approval to improve and extend Rushford Court in Durham – with a view to establishing it as a college of Durham University.

In an extension to the partnership between the two organisations, Rushford Court will initially become the temporary home of the university’s College of St Hild and St Bede. Longer term, it is intended that it will provide the university with a new 18th college.

The historic building will be upgraded to provide student and staff facilities including college staff offices, welfare, study spaces, and a new building will house common rooms, study areas and a bar, in addition to the facilities already on offer at the property.

Plans to develop the restored Victorian former hospital, in North Road, which has 348 bedrooms and currently boasts an on-site gym, cinema room, and games area, were approved unanimously by Durham County Council’s planning committee on Thursday (30th March).

Work, in partnership with Durham University, to upgrade the property will begin this summer. Unite Students will continue to operate the building while work is carried out, with residents staying at the property.

A new two-storey amenity hub will be built in front of the current building and external alterations – including reinstating the historic entrance and new landscaping – will be carried out in 2024 before being handed over for university use.

In unanimously approving the plans, the council’s committee said biodiversity and carbon reduction were both above and beyond the required levels, and the proposal reduced the pressure on permanent residents as well as the risk of loss of houses to HMOs (houses in multiple occupation).

The chair of the committee added the plans were a “positive step forward” for the university and the city of Durham.

Tom Brewerton, Group Development Director at Unite Students, said:

“It’s great that Durham County Council has recognised the benefits of this plan to upgrade Rushford Court. We’re proud to be working in partnership with Durham University on this project, which we hope will lead to the creation of a university college. We’re pleased to be able to support Durham University in this way and look forward to continuing to work closely together going forward and strengthening our partnership.”

Jeremy Cook, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) at Durham University, said:

“We are delighted with the decision made by Durham County Council. It enables the university to continue our fantastic working relationship with Unite Students and create a new college community environment from which our current and future students will feel a number of benefits. This planned development also enables us to continue our planned redevelopment of existing college sites and provide an investment into the life blood of our university, which is our family of colleges.”

Colleges at Durham University are thriving communities of staff and students of all ages from all subject areas. Each college has student support and welfare staff. There are also student-led activities including sport, music and theatre. Students are affiliated to a college for their duration of their studies at the university and beyond.

Rushford Court first opened as County Hospital in 1853, closing in 2010. Unite Students opened it as student accommodation in 2018. It was previously used as the temporary home for the university’s John Snow College during the 2019-2020 academic year, while the university’s Mount Oswald development was completed.




Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact Unite Students press office on 0117 4506300 or email:


About Unite Students

Unite Students is the UK’s largest owner, manager, and developer of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) serving the country’s world-leading higher education sector. We provide homes to 70,000 students across 157 properties in 23 leading university towns and cities. We currently partner with over 60 universities across the UK.

Our people are driven by a common purpose: to provide a ‘Home for Success’ for the students who live with us. Unite Students’ accommodation is safe and secure, high quality, and affordable. Students live predominantly in en-suite study bedrooms with rents covering all bills, insurance, 24-hour security and high-speed Wi-Fi. We also achieved a five-star British Safety Council rating in our last audit.

We are committed to raising standards in the student accommodation sector for our customers, investors, and employees. This is why our new Sustainability Strategy, launched in 2021, includes a commitment to become net zero carbon across our operations and developments by 2030.

Founded in 1991 in Bristol, the Unite Group is an award-winning Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), listed on the London Stock Exchange. For more information, visit Unite Group’s corporate website or the Unite Students’ site