GROUND HOG DAY

Driven Out! Poet, 79, who is the only non-student on her street says she can no longer cope with the noise, vandalism and drunken behaviour

Chris Brooke (Daily Mail on-line report, Saturday 3 September 2016) wrote:

  • Jackie Levitas, 79, has lived in her Durham home for the last 40 years
  • She has campaigned to stop student housing taking over neighbourhood 
  • But she has admitted defeat over new accommodation for 363 students 
  • Selling her £200,000 terrace home will be more difficult because of planning rules she supported.

For years, pensioner Jackie Levitas has campaigned to stop student housing taking over her neighbourhood.

The 79-year-old’s street in the heart of the historic cathedral city of Durham was once a place where children played safely outside and friendly neighbours looked out for each other.

Today Mrs Levitas is the last non-student in Waddington Street and the noise, vandalism and drunken behaviour of her neighbours has forced her out of the home she has lived in for almost 40 years.

For years, pensioner Jackie Levitas ... has campaigned to stop student housing taking over her neighbourhood, but she has finally admitted defeat

After developers won planning consent to build accommodation for 363 students nearby, the mother-of-two and grandmother finally accepted defeat. Ironically, selling her £200,000 Victorian terrace home will be more difficult because of planning rules – designed to control student housing – that she supported.

She said: ‘It’s the drinking culture. They drink at their houses until 11pm and then go to the bars in the town and come back at two or three in the morning completely blotto, shouting and screaming.

‘They walk up and down the streets, gangs of them shouting and singing and this happens quite a lot. And once they’ve woken you up it’s really hard to get to sleep again.

‘They’re very boisterous, loud rugby players. They don’t just walk they march down the streets and take over late at night.

Mrs Levitas claimed the ‘culture and quality of life’ has been lost as Durham’s student population has expanded to 17,500

‘Vomiting on the street is commonplace, it happens all the time. They have made my life hell.’

Mrs Levitas, a poet and former journalist, said that in decades past ‘people had pride in their homes and put flowers outside’.

Now students ruin her life during term-time and she is the only resident during holidays. She said: ‘All the students are interested in are their exam results, drinking and having a good time.

‘They’re only here for a year and you don’t know them and how they’re going to behave.

‘I have to explain to them that their behaviour is anti-social. They have so many parties and there is rubbish everywhere.

‘Then the summer comes and there’s nobody here, I’m completely alone. If anything happened to me nobody would know.’

Mrs Levitas claimed the ‘culture and quality of life’ has been lost as Durham’s student population has expanded to 17,500.

She said: ‘Two years ago I had a very bad group of students next door who played ear splitting music at all times so loudly that I could not hear my own television.

‘Last year we had somebody who threw his pizza boxes in the front garden every time he had a pizza.

‘I told him it didn’t look nice and to clear them away and he told me he could do whatever he wanted.

‘Once they all climbed on the roof after a party and started throwing the slates off.’ Mrs Levitas is looking to move elsewhere in Durham and she had hoped to turn her property into student accommodation to make it easier to sell.

But a new planning directive that she had campaigned for means she might not be able to turn her home into digs, despite the other ten properties in her street all being occupied by students.

With limits placed on the number of homes of multiple occupation, Mrs Levitas will have to rely on an exception clause for areas that already have a high concentration of student housing.

But David Randall of Durham County Council said the student population in the wider neighbourhood may not be high enough to make her eligible.

Editor's Note

One of the driving forces behind the formation of the NAG in 2004 was the impact on long-term residents of the same sort of anti-social behaviour which this article has highlighted. It is a sad reflection that in the more than 12 years which have gone by since that time, the same stories continue to be told and retold by families who merely want to be able to carry on with their lives without having to put up with the stress of what Chris Brooke's article has highlighted year after year, after year.