Controversial housing plans approved to next stage - despite more than 500 objections

Controversial housing plans on the outskirts of Sunderland have taken a step forward – despite hundreds of public objections.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 5:19 pm

In recent years, Sunderland City Council allocated a site near Springwell Village for housing as part of its Core Strategy and Development Plan (CSDP).

The local plan was endorsed by a Government-appointed planning inspector following a public examination process and was adopted by the council in early 2020.

As an approved ‘housing growth area’ in the CSDP the Springwell site, north of Mount Lane, was judged to be sustainable, deleted from the green belt and earmarked to deliver around 60 homes.

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There has been substantial backlash against plans for a development on land north of Mount Lane in Springwell
There has been substantial backlash against plans for a development on land north of Mount Lane in Springwell

Developer Hellens Group agreed to sell the site to Esh Homes and a joint planning application was submitted in late 2020.

During planning consultations, more than 500 public objections were lodged with concerns ranging from traffic and highway safety, flood risk and ‘overdevelopment’ to loss of green space and loss of amenity.

One comment said the application represented a ‘test’ of the council’s CSDP which should be “respected and enforced.”

Arguments for and against the proposals were heard at Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways (West) Committee on Tuesday, March 2, which was held via videolink and broadcast on YouTube.

A Springwell Village Residents Association representative, neighbours and Washington West ward councillors Harry Trueman and Bernard Scaplehorn voiced objections to the 75-home estate.

A written statement, read out on behalf of Cllr Scaplehorn, said the development and increased homes would generate more cars, traffic, emissions and environmental impacts.

“The village will be hard pushed to cope with 60 houses, we should not make it worse by approving 75,” he said.

A report prepared for the planning committee confirmed there were no technical objections to the plans from council departments on issues such as landscaping, highways and heritage.

In addition, the site layout also provided for a sustainable drainage system, pedestrian links and a children’s play area.

Sunderland City Council planners, recommending the scheme for approval, said it would have to be clear that ‘unacceptable harm’ would be caused by the proposed development to warrant a recommendation for refusal.

While acknowledging the development would encroach on some surrounding green belt to allow a road connection to Mount Lane and a public footpath connection, they said it would not change the status of the land – which would still be subject to green belt policies.

A representative for the developers said the ’75 homes’ figure was based on detailed technical studies of the site and had been accepted by the council’s planning department.

They added the development would create new construction jobs, increase local spend and deliver 15% affordable housing.

After more than an hour of representations and debate, the housing application was narrowly backed with a vote of 4-3.

Councillors Dom Armstrong, William Blackett and Heather Fagan voted against the plans.

As the application affects the designated green belt, it will be sent to the Secretary of State for final decision.

The application is also subject to a section 106 agreement, which would see the council secure financial contributions from developers towards sustainable travel and to mitigate impacts on the nearby Springwell Ponds Local Wildlife Site.

More than £400,000 would also be secured to help address the pressure on local education provision generated by the development, covering primary, secondary and special educational needs provision.

Gavin Cordwell-Smith, chief executive of Hellens Group, welcomed the planning decision.

“It is important that housing growth is accommodated within all settlements, particularly villages the size of Springwell, in order to support the sustainability of shops and services and Springwell Village Primary School,” he said.

Phil Brown, managing director of Esh Homes, added the development would deliver a range of new housing options for locals while “attracting new residents and investment into this popular village location.”

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