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Southwick gym plans rejected by Sunderland City Council over 'dangerous precedent' fears

New proposals for a fitness centre on Wearside have been turned down by city planners.

By Chris Binding
Monday, 17th January 2022, 5:33 pm
Updated Monday, 17th January 2022, 5:35 pm

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Sunderland City Council’s planning department received the application to overhaul the site at West Quay Court, off Crown Road, in the Southwick ward, in August last year.

The plans proposed changing the use of the vacant unit from “light industrial” purposes to a gym, with three members of staff.

According to planning documents, formal planning permission was needed to approve its use as a gym, as it fell outside the uses originally approved for the West Quay Court development, which included industrial workshops at ground floor level and offices at first floor level.

West Quay Court, Sunderland

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However, after concerns were raised over expected noise levels and possible parking issues, bosses reviewing the application opted to turn it down this month.

During consultation on the scheme, the local authority’s business investment team questioned the impact the proposed fitness centre could have in an industrial area.

The consultation comments, included in a decision report, stated there was a shortage of “hybrid” industrial-office premises in the city, which is “constraining the growth of businesses” and the creation of jobs.

Council officers added that the building was based in a primary employment area and should therefore be “protected from inappropriate uses” which could “deter legitimate uses from locating here, due to the change in the ‘character’ of the area that a leisure use would cause”.

The decision report also claimed that the gym, if approved, could set a “dangerous precedent, likely leading to other applications for non-industrial [or] office uses at this location”.

The applicants behind the scheme attempted to counter this, insisting the development would be a “small gym”, offering bookable classes with only one member of staff on site at any one time – as well as eight parking spaces being allocated to the unit.

However, analysis by council planners found that the overall floor space at the property, measuring about 166 sqm, would require 35 parking spaces.

The city council’s network management team added the gym use would “lead to a detrimental impact upon highway safety, due to the lack of parking available for the unit.”

Elsewhere, concerns were raised about noise levels from the premises and potential disturbance to the adjacent units.

Planners said the proposal clashed with certain policies due to the “absence of noise mitigation information provided to support the use and prevent any noise impact upon the adjoining units”.

A decision notice on the gym plan, published on the council’s website, outlined three main reasons for refusal.

This included a claim the plans failed to “support, maintain and enhance the established character of the primary employment area” or “provide sufficient mitigation measures against noise and impact upon the amenity of the surrounding premises”.

Planners added the proposal also “failed to accommodate the parking provision to support the use and as such is considered to be detrimental to highway safety”.

The applicant has the right to challenge the council’s planning decision by lodging an appeal through the government’s Planning Inspectorate.

For more information on the plans, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 21/01657/FUL

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