Neighbours say hostel levels are ‘beyond saturation point’ in Sunderland community

Roker Eye campaign - from left to right: Coun Barry Curran and Coun Julia Jackson receive the petition from Roker Avenue sterring group member Colin Riley, with fellow members Tom Parkin, Steven York and Lee Harrison, with (front of pic) concerned Roker Avenue resident Ian Burke, with daughter Samantha Burke, 4.

Roker Eye campaign - from left to right: Coun Barry Curran and Coun Julia Jackson receive the petition from Roker Avenue sterring group member Colin Riley, with fellow members Tom Parkin, Steven York and Lee Harrison, with (front of pic) concerned Roker Avenue resident Ian Burke, with daughter Samantha Burke, 4.

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ANGRY residents leading a campaign against plans for a supported living scheme on their doorstep say their street has ‘gone beyond saturation point’.

People living in and around Roker Avenue say the increasing number of houses of multi-occupancy (HMOs) has led to a ‘fundamental change’ in the character of the community and are calling on councillors to resist the latest bid for supported housing accommodation at 55 Roker Avenue.

Residents who have set up a Roker Avenue Steering Group have launched the Roker Eye campaign to fight the proposal and ensure no more HMOs are given the green light in the future.

A public meeting was held by the group at Enon Baptist Church in St Peter’s View this week, with ward councillors Julia Jackson and Barry Curran backing the campaign.

A petition with more than 400 signatures was presented to the councillors, outlining widespread concerns of the public.

Members of the public speaking at the meeting said they feared Roker Avenue was becoming a ‘ghetto’ and a ‘dumping ground’ for HMOs, such supported living schemes and student accommodation.

Steering group members say they have been told by Sunderland City Council that there are 24 HMOs in the area, but they believe the figure is closer to 60.

They believe 20 have sprung up in the last two years alone.

Colin Riley, a resident of Roker Avenue who chaired the meeting, said: “We have gone beyond saturation point for any more HMOs in the area.

“This isn’t just a fight against one property.

“It is about saying enough is enough for all HMOs in Roker Avenue in the future.”

Residents feel the rise in HMOs has led to an increase in anti-social behaviour and has weakened community links, reducing the family feel of the area.

Mr Riley added: “The character of the area is being changed beyond recognition by what is happening.

“That’s why we need to call a halt to the number of HMOs in the area.

“What was a family-orientated residential street has changed fundamentally in character.

“It has changed from what it was designed and built for.”

The latest application, by Sheepfold-based Slayco, details the house would become a supported housing facility for young adults if the change of use is approved.

It would have eight en suite rooms, with a communal kitchen, utility room and an office and sleepover room for care staff and could be sublet to a charity or housing association.

The application is due to go before the council’s planning committee on January 29.

No recommendation for whether the scheme should be approved or rejected has yet been issued by council officers.

St Peter’s ward councillor Barry Curran, who is the current Deputy Mayor, vowed to speak up for residents when the application goes before the planning committee.

He said: “I support what you are doing here.

“I am quite happy to speak up for the residents at the planning meeting.

“My attitude is to say no more. Enough is enough.

“Our job as councillors is to support residents. That’s exactly what we will be doing here.

“This steering group needs to stay together and get bigger and bigger and continue to fight.”

Fellow ward councillor Julia Jackson told the meeting she has organised a meeting with the council’s head of housing to discuss the issue.

Coun Jackson said: “We will be doing our best.

“We have a meeting with head of housing at Sunderland City Council to discuss this.

“There are too many HMOs in Roker Avenue, that is our argument.

“The change in the character of the area is a big issue.

“Residents have valid concerns and have a right to be anxious about this.”

The steering group has launched the Roker Eye Facebook page and set up nomorerokerflats@iseeu.co.uk so residents can send in their concerns.