Plans approved for new housing development near George Washington Hotel

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Plans for dozens of new homes on a former Green Belt site in Washington have been given the go-ahead by city councillors.

Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee, at a meeting this week, approved plans for land near the George Washington Hotel in the Washington West ward.

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A total of 49 homes were proposed at the Usworth site, which sits north of Stone Cellar Road, as well as the provision of 15% affordable housing.

Land north of Stone Cellar Road , Usworth. Picture: Google MapsLand north of Stone Cellar Road , Usworth. Picture: Google Maps
Land north of Stone Cellar Road , Usworth. Picture: Google Maps

In terms of the housing mix across the whole development, 30 three-bedroom dwellings and 19 four-bedroom dwellings were proposed.

The site is classed as suitable for housing within Sunderland City Council’s Core Strategy and Development Plan, or ‘local plan’.

It was previously ‘deleted’ from the Tyne and Wear Green Belt and allocated for housing following the adoption of the council’s local plan back in 2020.

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Although the original allocation for housing was around 45 new homes, council officers said 49 homes would be acceptable and recommended the scheme for approval.

A representative for Taylor Wimpey North East, David Abercrombie, spoke in support of the development at City Hall on July 31, 2023.

The representative told councillors that Taylor Wimpey North East were a Sunderland-based developer with hundreds of staff.

He added: “We have got 10 sites in the North East and this will allow us to increase our housing delivery next year in Sunderland to about 120.

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“We’re keen to start as soon as possible. The site is well-located, it’s allocated for residential, all the technical issues have been resolved through the application process.

“We’re delivering on-site affordable [housing], again working with the council that was felt to be the best solution for the delivery of affordable.

“There’s also quite a comprehensive package of Section 106 measures and we would just hope that you recognise the detailed report and go with the [planning] officer’s recommendation for approval”.

During council consultation on the plans, three public objections were submitted raising concerns ranging from increased traffic and noise to highway safety and loss of privacy.

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Following presentations from council planning officers and the applicant at Monday’s crunch planning meeting, the housing plans won unanimous support from city councillors.

Planning approval is subject to the completion of a Section 106 agreement, a legal agreement typically used to secure funds from developers to reduce the impact of developments.

In the case of the Washington development near Stone Cellar Road, more than £460,000 in financial contributions is expected.

This includes £281,634 towards education provision in the area, including early years, primary, secondary and special educational needs, and £130,650 towards off-site delivery of measures to boost biodiversity.

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Other Section 106 contributions include £15,000 towards local pedestrian improvement works to boost access to bus stops and create new crossings, £34,496 towards outdoor play facilities and 15% on-site affordable housing.

The affordable housing equates to five ‘discount market value’ properties and two properties under a ‘first homes’ scheme.

Following a question from councillor Michael Dixon, developers confirmed that the affordable properties would be located at several points within the housing estate.

Councillor Melanie Thornton, chair of the Planning and Highways Committee, welcomed this design choice.

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Cllr Thornton added: “I’m pleased to see that [affordable homes] are mixed throughout because not all allocations are.

“I think that’s really valuable to do that”.

According to a statement on Taylor Wimpey’s website, the site proposed for housing was formerly used as a practice area for the adjacent golf course within the grounds of the George Washington Hotel site.

Under planning conditions work on the new housing must take place within three years.