‘Co-living’ accommodation scheme approved for Sunderland Deaf Centre building

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Plans for a large “co-living” accommodation scheme on Wearside have been given the green light by city development chiefs.

Sunderland City Council’s planning department has approved an application for the Sunderland Deaf Centre building at 35-36 North Bridge Street.

The application, submitted earlier this year, sought permission to change the building’s ‘social club’ status to residential accommodation in the form of a 19-bedroom house in multiple occupation (HMO).

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Proposed works from applicant Vindamora Property Limited included new windows, solar panels, new stairs to the basement level and the removal of a ramp, as well as secure cycle storage.

Council documents confirmed all bedrooms would have en-suites and that the shared living space would consist of a large kitchen/living room in the basement, a communal lounge on the ground floor and an additional kitchen on the first floor.

A design and access statement submitted to the council said plans were linked to Heaney Homes, who are purchasing the building, and that current occupants were planning to re-locate to “more suitable premises”.

Developers said the new HMO plan, described as a “co-living development,” would contain “spacious en-suite bedrooms with generous communal areas” and “exceptional living conditions and amenities”.

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Those behind the scheme said they operate a variety of HMO developments across the region, with the typical tenant demographic being employed people aged 23-35.

The design and access statement added: “They want to know most of their bills are included in a monthly rent and they like the idea of community living, as opposed to bedsits/studios they rent on their own that are unfurnished.

“This scheme will see all rooms that are substantially above the minimum amenity standards and very generous communal spaces to encourage co-living”.

After considering the planning application and assessing it against planning policies, Sunderland City Council’s planning department approved it on July 4, 2024.

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Council planners, in a decision report, noted comments from the applicant that aimed to justify the loss of a community facility, including the building being “no longer appropriate for the Deaf Society’s needs” and the group “moving to another local building”.

It was also noted that a “HMO in this location would be acceptable in principle” and that “circumstances and particular characteristics of the site permit this type of accommodation at this location”.

The council decision report added: “It is considered that the management plan is appropriate and will ensure that the property is operated in a manner that will ensure the residential amenity of occupiers and neighbouring residents.

“In terms of the residential amenity afforded to occupiers, all bedrooms would have their own en-suite and would have a suitable level of outlook.

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“Each bedroom also offers a good-sized living space for potential occupiers, which complies with the Nationally Described Spacing Standards.

“The communal areas allow occupiers to prepare meals and have access to alternate living space and they are considered to be large enough to accommodate the number of occupiers comfortably”.

Council planners also concluded that the “impact of the proposal on residential and visual amenity, listed buildings, ecology and highway and pedestrian safety” was “acceptable”.

Although no dedicated parking spaces are proposed for the HMO, applicants previously said the location offers “excellent access to public transport, services, and amenities within walking distance”.

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A heritage statement submitted to council officials confirmed the development would target “working professionals aged 25-35 in the local area as this aligns with the Heaney Homes portfolio of high-quality luxury shared living spaces”.

The heritage statement added: “Heaney Homes, the managing agent across the North of England for shared living include several clauses in their ASTs (assured shorthold tenancy) such as, that any persistent antisocial behaviour will result in termination of ASTs to ensure community cohesion.

“Cleaners visit the properties weekly/fortnightly to ensure high standards of the properties are maintained [and] regular reactive and preventive maintenance is carried out by an in-house maintenance team”.

Under planning conditions, the HMO conversion works must take place within three years.

For more information on the planning application or council decision, visit Sunderland City Council’s planning portal website and search reference: 24/00391/FUL