Sunderland aircraft museum praised for expansion plans

On the site of the proposed new tram shed at the NE Land Sea and Air Museum, Washington. Left to right; Dave Harrison, Chair of the North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust, with Councillors Jill Fletcher and John Kelly and some of the museum volunteers.

On the site of the proposed new tram shed at the NE Land Sea and Air Museum, Washington. Left to right; Dave Harrison, Chair of the North Eastern Electrical Traction Trust, with Councillors Jill Fletcher and John Kelly and some of the museum volunteers.

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PLANS to develop a aircraft museum have been hailed for their ambition to improve its appeal – despite objections from residents.

Washington North ward councillor John Kelly insists householders living near the North East Air, Land and Sea Museum in Washington have nothing to fear from the expansion proposals.

Museum bosses look set to be granted permission next week to construct a 65m-long and 12m-wide engine shed almost 7m high, with rail access, to store their collection of trams.

It will also house a small workshop for light restoration jobs, prompting fears of noise from residents of homes about 90 metres away.

Councillor Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for public health, wellness and culture, insists they will not be disrupted and has praised the plans for seeking to expand the attraction’s appeal and draw in more visitors.

He said: “This is not an engineering workshop.

“It’s more for cleaning and upholstering within this storage facility. I’m hopeful that these plans will go ahead, and I think it’s what the museum needs.

“The museum is fairly limited at the moment, but it has taken a new direction recently with the addition of trams and military vehicles. It needs to establish itself further.”

Council chiefs confirmed they had received a letter of objection on behalf of the occupiers of four houses in Washington Road, voicing concerns about noise but says they will drop their objections to the development, close to the Nissan car factory, if their worries are addressed.

Residents are demanding only light restoration work takes place and only between 10am and 5pm on weekdays, and want a guarantee that construction of the shed will be carried out only between 8am and 6pm, also on weekdays.

They also request the roof matches up with an existing building on the green-belt site. A report to councillors says: “The writers are not against a small group of enthusiasts enjoying their hobby, but they feel that consideration is needed of the points they have raised.

“The residential properties existed before the museum, but they suffer from continuing noise problems.”

Museum bosses admit their long-term goal for the site, which operated as RAF Usworth between 1916 and 1945 and became Sunderland Aerodrome in 1963, is to establish a working tramway.

However, they say their main concern is getting their collection under cover so they can start restoration of vehicles including a Bradford trolleybus and Blackpool tram.

The report recommends the council’s development control sub-committee for Hetton, Houghton and Washington to approve the scheme, subject to conditions, when it meets on Tuesday.

In the meantime, a ‘tram and transport’ event will take place at the museum on Sunday from 10am to 5pm.

More information is available at www.nelsam.org.uk