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Durham: New Innovation District and Property Market

Mark Hempshell reports

As many will know, Oxford and Cambridge have proved to be two of the country’s hottest property markets in recent decades. This has not just been due to their academic pre-eminence but also because of collaboration between the universities and business ,which has brought future-facing industries and highly paid jobs to these cities. A new proposal in Durham could potentially see a similar model gain ground there and in this report we will look at the proposed Innovation District as well as at the wider Durham property market.

Durham, in England’s north eastern County Durham, is a relatively small city. Its city population of 50,000 is only around a third of either Oxford or Cambridge. All three cities have a rich history and cultural heritage, although Durham does not yet command the other cities’ high profile on the world stage.

It could be said that Durham actually punches well above its weight in academic terms. Most surveys of university standings rank Durham University amongst the top 10 UK universities and within the top 100 worldwide. Student numbers of around 21,000 are similar to Cambridge and just behind Oxford, yet in a much smaller city.

There are a few areas in which Durham currently lags behind, however. It is not particularly well connected being 230 miles (5 hours 30 minutes by road, 2 hours 40 minutes by train) from London. Durham’s economy is currently grounded in public services and administration rather than science and technology. This reflects in average salaries of only around £29,000 in Durham compared to £37,000 in Oxford and Cambridge. It could be argued, however, that although Durham is some way behind its southern counterparts there is much more potential for growth of both the economy and the property market.

Now to look at the Durham property market: First of all, it is important to draw a distinction between the market in and immediately around the city of Durham itself and the wider County Durham area. The wider County Durham area, with its many ex-mining towns, has some of the UK’s cheapest property prices – with prices starting at around £40,000. This is not the case in Durham city itself. Here limited supply and its attractiveness as a place to live means the average house price is currently just under £200,000 (Rightmove sold prices). This still seems good value, however, compared to the average house price in England of around £310,000 (HM Land Registry) – and an average house price of almost £600,000 in Oxford and Cambridge. 

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