Unite has housed students at the site since 2018. Credit: via Powerscourt

Unite Students starts Rushford Court expansion

The UK’s largest provider of student accommodation is working in partnership with Durham University to revamp and extend the site.

Unite’s professional team includes Church Lukas, LDA Design, ROK Planning and Hydrock. The principal contractor is Brims.

The Rushford Court site houses 358 bedrooms. It served as County Hospital from 1853 to 2010 and was taken on in 2018 by Unite.

Rushford Court was previously used as the temporary home for the university’s John Snow College during the 2019/20 academic year.

The building will reprise that role, becoming the temporary home of the university’s College of St Hild & St Bede from September 2024 while the Leazes Road site is redeveloped.

In the longer term, it is the university’s intention to establish a new, 18th college at Rushford Court.

The works now under way include a new two-storey amenity building, creating a college housing a junior common room with a cafe, bar and social space, reception, and study space, built into an existing sloped gradient on the site.

Alongside this, works on the Harding Building will see college staff offices and welfare and study spaces created, as well as the reinstatement of the historic entrance.

Finally, the current reception building is to be transformed into a gym and yoga suite.

Unite Students will continue to operate the building while work is carried out, with residents staying at the property.

Rushford Court was originally a hospital. Credit: via Powerscourt

Plans to develop Rushford Court, which currently boasts an on-site gym, cinema room, and games area, were approved unanimously by a Durham County Council planning committee earlier this year.

In unanimously approving the plans, the committee praised the biodiversity and carbon reduction commitments attached to the project.

Richard Smith, chief executive of Unite Students, said: “We’re delighted to start work to upgrade Rushford Court, delivering new facilities on site to enable the property to become Durham University’s newest college.

“This is an exciting step forward as it allows us to strengthen our ongoing partnership with Durham University. I look forward to seeing the scheme progress over the next year and ultimately students and college staff enjoying the use of the building for many years to come.”

Jeremy Cook, pro-vice chancellor (colleges and student experience) at Durham University, said: “This exciting development will enable the university to provide a home to our much-loved Hild Bede College, while we redevelop their historic home.”

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