Outcry over plans for 250 new homes on Sunderland grassland

Grassland near Vicarage Close, New Silksworth
Grassland near Vicarage Close, New Silksworth
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Plans to build up to 250 new homes on grassland have been met with outcry by residents.

Objectors say that the proposed development, on land off Silksworth Lane and Silksworth Road, would cause a dangerous increase in traffic levels and loss of habitat for wildlife.

Vicarage Close, New Silksworth, resident Audrey Polkinghorn with her petition against the proposal for building of new homes on grassland.

Vicarage Close, New Silksworth, resident Audrey Polkinghorn with her petition against the proposal for building of new homes on grassland.

Concerns have also been raised over a potential flood risk, as well as more pressure on services such as doctors and schools.

Many residents argue that Silksworth, which was built as a pit village, cannot cope with the amount of traffic and residents it has already, without an influx of construction traffic and new residents adding to the problem.

But planning consultants Signet, who are handling the application on behalf of Partner Construction Ltd, say the residential development on Mill Hill could boost the area’s economy while contributing to the provision of new housing in the city.

Though Sunderland City Council’s planning committee were advised to pass the application at a meeting this week, it instead decided to defer its decision to undertake a further visit of the site.

Three petitions have been presented to the council over the application. The latest, led by Audrey Polkinghorn, was signed by more than 100 people with a further 45 letters of objection lodged in relation to the proposal.

Audrey, of Vicarge Close, would neighbour the proposed development, which would feature a range of two and five-bed properties with up to 10 per cent being affordable housing.

She was among residents who addressed the planning committee meeting to air their views on the outline planning application.

Mrs Polkinghorn spoke about a potential flood risk and sewage problems.

“Remember the Gilley Law Lake sinking into the old pit shaft a few years ago as the lake vanished overnight? Proof enough of underground flooding in Mill Hill vicinity. What investigations have been done about that?,” she said. Though the Highways Agency have confirmed they have no objection to the development proposal, residents do not believe an increase in traffic to be safe.

James Mutch, of Vicarage Close, said: “The entrance to Vicarage Close is a nightmare rat run to get in and out of. Someone will get killed on that corner. It’s a fatality waiting to happen.

“Going by these plans someone’s garden is going to be right up against my fence. I moved there for the peace and quiet.”

Joseph Foster, of Cavalier Way, said: “For the past ten years, traffic in that area has increased drastically due to the bus lane on Durham Road forcing traffic round the back.

“The danger is you can’t get two large vehicles passing in the opposite direction. Anything bigger than a transit van goes on the pavement. What happens when you have big construction vehicles trying to access the site?

“Silksworth is a pit village, it has inadequate roads and pavements that won’t take the extra traffic.”

Vicarage Close resident Matthew Summerside said: “My main objection is relating to traffic. It’s a very narrow road, since Christmas we’ve seen five accidents and in the last two weeks alone there’s been three.

“There are around 400 to 500 cars an hour running up and down that road all the time.

“We also have a lot of wildlife in our garden, hawks, pheasants, hedgehogs and foxes in our garden, and I would hate to see them disappear as a result of this.”

‘The applicants did not consider one person’s questions’

Silksworth Ward councillors have also voiced their concerns.

Coun Peter Gibson, who is also a Vicarage Close resident, has been among those to attend three consultations between residents and developers.

He said: “I have never in my thirty years attended a consultation like it. The applicants did not consider one person’s questions. They said to Coun Pat Smith and I that we would get full feedback from the consultation, but we haven’t had so much as the scribe of a pen,

“The original plan said 150 homes, now it says 250. They want to squeeze in as many as possible to get as much money as possible.”

Alastair Willis from Signet, speaking on behalf of the applicant, said: “We believe this to be a high quality landscaped residential development which would make a meaningful contribution to the council’s future housing requirements.”

An initial consultation with residents took place in August 2013, after which changes were made to the plan including restricting certain buildings to two storeys to preserve views and improvements to pedestrian connectivity around the site.

Mr Willis added: “The delays associated with this have allowed a high level of consideration and key changes to the plans have been made as a result.”

He added that if the plan were to go ahead it could provide 200 jobs in construction and in the supply chain.