A former hostel in Sunderland city centre will be transformed into 50 apartments after plans were given the go ahead by councillors.
The Tatham Street Hostel building, in Tatham Street, near Mowbray Park, has been on the market since 2014.
In previous years, the 79-bedroom building provided hostel accommodation for Sunderland’s homeless before being acquired by Homes England.
Under new proposals by applicant Camrex House, the vacant three-storey building will be revamped and offer one-bedroom apartments for “young professionals”.
On October 29, Sunderland City Council’s Area Development Control Sub-committee rubber stamped the plans which aim to compliment regeneration schemes in the Sunniside area.
During consultation, Sunderland’s Business Improvement District raised fears that the property could be used as a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
Councillors, sitting at Sunderland Civic Centre, heard the apartments would be aimed towards “young professionals” with each having its own kitchen, living room, bathroom and bedroom.
Further assurance included a “restrictive covenant” being signed with Homes England restricting any future hostel and HMO uses.
Coun Barbara McClennan, who represents the Hendon ward, noted that concerns had been raised about the planning bid being a “backdoor method to open a hostel or bedsit for unsavoury residents”.
She said : “I was delighted to see that the applicant was actually willing to sign and undertake that it would not, in any shape or form, be turned into either.”
The councillor also questioned management and parking issues for tenants and referenced site being close to drug services, including a needle exchange.
A planning officer, responding, said any attempt to change the use of the building in future would need new planning permission, which along with the covenant, would serve as “double form of protection”.
The revised application plans to offer 16 off-street car parking spaces – from six – and 10% affordable housing.
While the location is close to transport links, a parking management plan will be developed for new tenants including an option for city centre parking permits.
Cabinet member for housing and regeneration on the council, Stuart Porthouse, added: “There are fantastic buildings down there and this is a step in the right direction, a step to bring this building into use for something which will help the area.
“When you raised the issue of parking spaces, highways went back and the applicant listened and took it on board.
“These are the people that Sunderland City Council wants to work with.”
Previous uses of the city building include a Girls Reformatory, Seaman’s Mission and Church and a paintworks.
Under renovation plans, a large stained glass window will be retained on the site along with the front windows to the property – most of which will need to be repaired.
Agreed planning conditions also rule that no apartment will be occupied on site until management plans are drawn up around parking and waste disposal.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service