The pods are coming – plans approved for controversial cannonball huts at Sunderland seafront

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CONTROVERSIAL cannonball pods are coming to Roker seafront after councillors approved the plans.

The three mobile pods, developed as part of the Sea Change programme, will offer retail, educational and performance facilities at various locations along Marine Walk.

Tom Parkin, owner of Sue’s Cafe, has campaigned against the project, arguing the pods do not provide disabled access and are therefore unlawful.

He addressed a meeting of the planning committee on Wednesday, urging councillors to vote against the plans.

“The pods were forced through by planning officers against the general public, who thought they were a daft idea,” he said.

“To our amazement and disgust, photographs of the pods show no disabled access and five steps up to a landing a metre from the floor.

“Two of my workmates, who were disabled in an accident at Wearmouth Colliery and are paralysed from the waist down, Alan Curry and Jeff Branson, have asked me to convey their feelings of disgust.”

Councillors pressed planning officer Dan Hattle on the issue.

“How do disabled people access the kiosk?” asked Coun George Thompson.

“You are saying they go to the hole at the front, so if someone disabled arrives and needs to attract the attention of someone, what then?”

Mr Hattle said the council would work with groups occupying the pods and could, for example, provide ramps which could be deployed on either a temporary or permanent basis.

He also promised councillors, who are unable to see the pods themselves as they are in Brighton, that they would meet strict health and safety standards.

Despite the concerns, councillors voted to approve the plans, much to the dismay of Mr Parkin.

“That ramp would need to be at an incline of one in 12,” he said. “It’s just been mentioned tonight for the first time, and it would need to be 12 metres long.

“They’re saying all the health and safety will be done properly, but they haven’t got anything right yet.”