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'Beach wheelchair' scheme moves closer as plans approve for new unit at Sunderland seafront

Proposals for a ‘beach wheelchair’ facility to help improve access to Sunderland’s coastline have been given the stamp of approval by planning chiefs.

By Chris Binding
Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 4:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th June 2022, 9:56 am

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Sunderland City Council recently submitted an application to its own planning department for a parcel of land adjacent to Adventure Sunderland at Marine Walk, Roker.

This included building a new storage unit to house and loan out beach wheelchairs, as well as new hardstanding and ramped access.

The initiative has been backed by Sunderland City Council, which has already contributed towards the funding, and will be led by charity Beach Access North East.

An example of one type of beach wheelchair that Beach Access North East offers. Picture credit: Ian Henderson

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According to planning documents, people with wheelchairs or mobility issues would be able to hire wheelchairs free of charge, which make travelling across sand and shells possible.

Beach Access North East have praised the “generosity” of those who have helped to fund the project, including the city council, Sunderland Crowdfund and Spacehive crowdfunder pledges.

To get the Roker project started, the charity is also expected to work alongside a number of local organisations including Sunderland Parent Carer Forum and Headway Wearside.

Planning permission for the wheelchair storage facility was granted by the council in late-May, 2022 and it is hoped the facility could be up and running later this year.

If power is supplied to the storage container as part of the works, a ‘mobile hoist’ could be installed in future to help with transfers to equipment.

A decision report prepared by council planning officers welcomed the scheme and said it would help make the beach “accessible for all”.

The planning decision report explains how will help visitors as well as play a part in developing Sunderland’s seafront.

It reads: “It is acknowledged that the proposed storage facility for beach wheelchairs will further support the regeneration aims of Marine Walk and bring significant public benefits by enabling the beach at Roker to be accessible for all thus providing enhanced recreational opportunities at the seafront.

“The principle of the development is therefore supported.”

The planning decision report adds: “In respect of the visual impact of the development the natural hardwood cladding of the external faces of the container is consistent with the external materials of recent developments along Marine Walk and will allow it to sit comfortably within the newly established townscape of this part of the conservation area.

“The proposed grassed roof will further improve the appearance of the container and enable it [to] blend in with the surrounding environs of the grassed embankment, particularly in views from the upper promenade over it towards the sea, and thus not compromise the embankment’s role as a significant green space.

“The proposed development will provide a facility that brings significant public benefits to the Roker Seafront and will introduce a structure that will compliment recent new developments that define the character and appearance of this part of Marine Walk.”

For more on the planning application, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 22/00912/FU4

Information on Beach Access North East can also be found here: www.facebook.com/beachaccessnortheast