Decision delayed on controversial Gentoo development in Washington

The brakes have been slammed on an affordable housing scheme over fears for road safety and environmental destruction.
The site in question.The site in question.
The site in question.

Plans were submitted earlier in 2020 by housing association Gentoo for 13 properties on land at Willows Close, in Washington.

But bosses at Sunderland City Council decided they could not rule on the application and instead voted to defer a judgement and allow themselves more time to investigate the proposals.

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“Photographs can tell a lot of stories, I think councillors should see the road layout and how much green space there actually is,” said city councillor Len Lauchlan, who represents the Washington Central ward.

“I think they have probably got a false sense of how much green space there is – if you put 17 houses on that green space then there isn’t a lot of space for ‘significant betterment’.”

Cllr Lauchlan was speaking at a November 17 meeting of the council’s Planning and Highways Committee for the west of the city, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

And he was backed by Green Party opposition councillor Dom Armstrong, who added a site visit would allow councillors to see the area’s ‘formidable traffic’ for themselves, as well as giving the public more chance to formally submit their views on the plans.

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Gentoo’s application sought permission for 13 new homes, including two bungalows, on land next to John F Kennedy Primary School.

According to a report for the panel, 24 objections were submitted to the council’s planning department, citing concerns including loss of wildlife and trees, flood risk and overdevelopment.

If approved, all the properties would be offered at ‘affordable’ rents, defined as at least 20 per cent below market rates, something Sandra Mason, speaking on behalf of the housing association, said could be increasingly important for Wearside following the COVID-19 pandemic.

This argument was backed by Cllr Fiona Miller, who said: “Washington is full of green spaces and if we can give 13 families the chance of a roof over their heads it makes sense.”

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Cllr Miller later joined the rest of the committee in voting to defer a decision on the application.

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