Plans approved for new £16million Sunderland Holiday Inn hotel in Keel Square

Work on a new £16million hotel is set to press ahead after plans got the green light from councillors.

Tuesday, 6th August 2019, 4:45 pm
Artist’s impression of how the new Holiday Inn hotel could look

The 120-room Holiday Inn hotel will also house commercial units on lower its floors with spaces for a gym, media lounge and meeting rooms.

The development, which will create 130 jobs, was approved by members of Sunderland City Council’s area Development Control Sub-Committee on August 6.

The hotel will offer 58 standard rooms, 56 twin rooms, two executive rooms and four accessible rooms.

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Councillor Michael Dixon at the site

However, no parking will be provided on the site with customers expected to find spaces elsewhere in the city.

Concerns were raised over whether the hotel would be in keeping with the historic area of the city centre, and the impact of the construction work on neighbours – including a spa.

But councillors unanimously backed the proposals – though noise surveys, discussions around building materials and groundwork investigations are ongoing.

Sub-committee chairman Councillor Phil Tye said: “It’s important that we welcome a new development into the city centre but it’s also important that we respect our tenants, business owners and the business adjacent to the site.

“The (health spa’s) opening gambit was that they’re not against the development itself but the construction works.

“If we can get that bit right in the longer term, the prospect of people wanting to use (the health spa) and the potential of that is fantastic as well.

“I certainly wouldn’t want businesses in the city centre to be put off.”

The hotel project was originally mooted in 2017 and faced several delays, but revised plans from developer Cairn Group can now go ahead once final issues are ticked off.

Concerns over the developing on a ‘sensitive site’

During the consultation on the proposals, concerns were raised by the Sunderland Civic Society about the hotel’s design.

Neighbouring business Olympia Beauty and Fitness also raised fears about construction work.

Councillors heard the business has been based on High Street West for more than half a century, but concerns included major demolition and building works having an impact on trade.

This includes bulldozers moving in on 52, 53 and 55 High Street West.

Planning officers said the development would be covered by a construction management plan which would work to minimise disruption.

They added the business would also be taken into consideration by environmental officers – with a planning condition requiring the developer to liaise with the spa.

Conservation officers added the hotel will be based on a “sensitive site” on the edge of a conservation area near the Magistrates’ Court and Dun Cow.

In response to design concerns, they confirmed they’re working with the applicant to boost the amount of natural sandstone cladding used.

Planning permission already exists for a six-storey hotel on the site but revised plans aim to bring forward a more viable scheme.

The planning authority are currently waiting on a response from environmental health and finalising the materials used in the hotel’s construction.

Once issues are resolved – including groundworks – the executive director of city development will be able to grant planning permission.

Criticism over delays

Sub-committee member Councillor Michael Dixon has previously criticised council bosses for delays in bringing the scheme forward.

Speaking after the meeting, he said concerns should be “carefully considered” in future.

“I have on several occasions in the past asked questions as to why there have been delays in building a hotel on this site, so it would have been bizarre if I had not accepted the planner’s recommendation to approve the application,” he added.

“However, I remain concerned about issues relating to design and types of material used so close to some of the most attractive buildings in our city centre in and around Keel Square.

“I really do hope some of the points raised by the Civic Society and others about these matters are carefully considered in any future discussions between the owners and the council. “