Decision date set for student apartment plans at former Louis Café in Sunderland city centre

New proposals for student apartments at a former city centre café and restaurant are set to go before councillors for decision next week.

By Chris Binding
Monday, 27th June 2022, 3:40 pm

Back in March 2021, Sunderland City Council’s planning department approved plans to re-purpose the former Louis Café and Restaurant building as accommodation.

The business first started in Ryhope in 1924 and later opened in Crowtree Road in Sunderland city centre, before moving premises to Park Lane in 1975.

Louis Cafe, Park Lane, Sunderland, in 2018.

Owners Maria Lee and her brother Ged Maggiore, whose grandfather Louis created the restaurant, said although they were still inundated with customers, the time is right to hang up their aprons and retire – something they said was a very difficult decision.

A planning application from MTA Land Investments Ltd, which was approved by council planning officers last year, proposed extending the building upwards by two storeys and providing “cluster-type” student apartments.

According to a design, access and planning statement prepared for the applicant, the revised plans aimed to offer 16 student apartments instead of the 34 student accommodation units originally proposed.

Louis Cafe, Park Lane, Sunderland, before it closed.

The new development also proposed a commercial unit on the ground floor as well as an external “refresh” of the building’s exterior.

Revised plans are set to go before Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee for decision next week.

According to a report prepared for city councillors, the proposed development would “primarily be to target the overseas student market”.

Despite a neighbour’s objection raising concerns about placing the student accommodation near “late-night venues”, council planning officers have recommended the plans for approval.

A committee report states the plans would “contribute to diversifying the residential offer and the creation of mixed and sustainable communities within the urban core […] providing an acceptable form of student accommodation within the city”.

The committee report adds: “It would also provide a retail unit within the primary shopping area of the urban core, within a building which is currently vacant.

“This would contribute to regenerating and transforming the urban core into a vibrant and district area, in a very sustainable location in close proximity to public transport hubs”.

Council planners said that the plans would “refresh and enhance” the building’s appearance and subject to conditions, would be acceptable in terms of noise mitigation, ecology, design and highway safety.

In addition, the plans are expected to “contribute to meeting a shortfall of purpose-built student accommodation” on Wearside.

The final say on the application rests with members of the Planning and Highways Committee, who will next meet on Monday, July 4, to consider the plans and representations.

The meeting will start at 5.30pm at City Hall and will be open to the public.