Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee on August 1, 2022, voted unanimously to approve plans for Rowlandson House in the Hendon ward.
The property, which sits on the signalised junction of Ryhope Road and Villette Road, was previously used as a care home but has sat vacant for a number of years.
Although attempts have been made to convert the property into a children’s day nursery, applicants have previously faced opposition from councillors and members of the public over noise and parking issues.
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On separate occasions, in 2019 and 2021, councillors on relevant planning committees voted against the recommendations of council officers and refused planning applications for the site.
In both cases, the plans were taken to appeal and government-appointed planning inspectors upheld the council’s refusal decisions.
Applicants have also previously been criticised for sending a letter to residents living near the site explaining the “fallback position” if planning permission was not granted for a nursery.
This included exploring uses for the building permitted under the current planning class, which could include a bail hostel or an “operation to care for released offenders, asylum seekers and / or children”.
Hendon councillor Michael Mordey, who has opposed the children’s day nursery scheme in the past, called for it to be refused for a third time.
In a written statement presented to the Planning and Highways Committee at City Hall this week, Cllr Mordey raised concerns about noise, disturbance and on-street parking and highway safety issues from increased traffic.
Cllr Mordey added that plans to extend the pedestrian “guardrail” outside the property would move the parking problems elsewhere and that the “conflict with traffic flow on a busy main road” would remain.
Despite some local objections to the scheme, the council’s Planning and Highways Committee approved the children’s day nursery plan.
Councillors heard the applicant had amended the scheme following the previous appeal judgement and discussions with council officers.
A key condition included extending pedestrian barriers at the signalised junction of Ryhope Road and Villette Road to prevent customers dropping off and picking up “in the vicinity of this junction”.
Elsewhere, a “travel leaflet” will be issued to all customers to deter drop off and pick ups from Villette Road or Ryhope Road and to make visitors aware of available on-street car parking and walking routes in the area.
In addition, the facility would be “limited to 50 children at any time in the interest of highway safety”.
As well as enforceable council conditions, applicants stressed the children’s day nursery would be monitored by Ofsted.
A report by planning officers and presented to the Planning and Highways Committee said the principle of development was acceptable.
The committee report adds: “On planning balance and considering the previous comments of the Planning Inspectorate and the comments of the highway engineer in terms of the removed necessity for a traffic regulation order (TRO), whilst it is recognised indiscriminate parking may take place, through the imposition of a proactive set of conditions that provide details of parking to future users and limiting numbers of attendees, it is not considered that the removal of the need for a TRO would significantly prejudice levels of residential amenity.
“Furthermore with the impositions of the conditions […] it is not considered that the proposal would impinge upon the free passage of traffic or create conditions prejudicial to highway or pedestrian safety.”
The proposal has confirmed that the children’s day nursery use seeks to accommodate up to 50 children and employ eight members of staff.