Retrospective plans approved for Covid testing facility at private hospital - despite opposition from residents

Plans for a Covid-19 testing centre in Washington have been approved despite opposition from neighbours and some councillors.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 2:28 pm
The cabins were set up at the Spire Hospital, Washington.

Portacabins were installed at the private Spire Hospital, in Picktree Lane, several months ago as part of a facility to screen patients ahead of surgery.

But a retrospective application to keep the structures in place for a year ran into opposition from neighbours, who raised concerns about the proximity of those arriving for swabs to nearby homes.

“We just don’t know the risks,” said Cllr Louise Farthing, who represents the Washington South council ward which includes the site.

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“If they’re going to be there for any length of time, which it seems to be they will be, then they should be moved to another location in the car park, away from residential properties.

“I think the whole design is inappropriate and should not be approved – I accept we’re in a pandemic and there needs to be testing, but that should not stop organisations applying the rules.”

Cllr Farthing, who is also cabinet member for children, learning and skills, was speaking at last night’s (Tuesday, March 30) meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

One neighbour who also addressed the panel claimed some patients were being swabbed in their cars within two metres of the garden boundaries of some neighbouring properties and questioned what the consequences could be ‘when the wind is blowing strongly’.

Concerns were also raised about extra noise and congestion in the car park generated by the testing facility, something which was rejected by the council’s planning department.

Planning officer Andrew Browning said: “We’re of the opinion that the nature of the activity is not inherently noisy and takes place against the backdrop of an existing busy hospital car park.

“It’s not extending into what could be considered unsociable hours.

“We considered the proximity of the portacabins and areas used for swab tests to residential properties and consider the effect is not sufficient to warrant refusal.”

Following discussions, the panel’s four Labour members reluctantly agreed to approve two sets of plans related to the portacabins, while Conserative member William Blackett and Liberal Democrat Heather Fagan voted against.

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