Plans refused for Sunderland student accommodation which 'failed to respect historic street'

Plans for a new student accommodation development on Wearside have been refused by city development chiefs following design and heritage concerns.
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Sunderland City Council’s planning department received a planning application for a building at 15 North Bridge Street, on the corner of Barclay Street near the Wearmouth Bridge.

Those behind the scheme said the building was in a “derelict state” with internal structural damage, and that demolition was proposed.

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New plans for the site included the construction of a three-storey building offering eight cluster apartments aimed at students.

North Bridge Street, Sunderland. Picture c/o Google Streetview.North Bridge Street, Sunderland. Picture c/o Google Streetview.
North Bridge Street, Sunderland. Picture c/o Google Streetview.

Apartments were expected to benefit from communal living and kitchen areas, with the total development proposing around 40 bedrooms.

It is not the first time plans have been submitted to demolish and redevelop the site, with a bid for a four-storey student accommodation complex refused by Sunderland City Council in April, 2017.

After considering the new planning application and assessing it against planning policies, the local authority’s planning department refused it on March 29, 2023.

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A decision report published by council planners set out five reasons for refusal, with a range of concerns raised about the apartment scheme.

One reason for refusal included the development’s design and layout introducing an “uncharacteristic feature into the locality which fails to respect the built form of its surroundings and the historic street scene, to the detriment of the character of the local area”.

Other reasons for refusal included the applicant failing to demonstrate a “defined need for the student accommodation” in the area and no evidence being provided around “more suitable and available sites within the city’s Urban Core”.

As a result, council planners were “unable to accept that the site represented an appropriate location for new student accommodation”.

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Another issue was linked to the site’s close proximity to the Grade II-listed Hebron Church, Barclay Lodge and the Monkwearmouth Station Museum, which is now the Sunderland Fans’ Museum.

Council planning officers stated that the “loss of the existing building together with the unacceptable design and layout of the proposed building” would cause “minor harm” to these listed buildings.

It was also noted that the development would “fail to provide satisfactory living conditions to the bedrooms which would be contained in the northern section of the building”.

According to the council decision report, this was due to “inadequate outlook and limited natural light and [….] insufficient communal space, in respect of the living/kitchen areas, to accommodate the number of occupants in each apartment”.

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Council planners added that the development’s position, massing and increased number of higher-level windows would “adversely compromise outlook and privacy and pose an oppressive impact on Barclay Lodge”.

The applicant has the right to challenge the council’s refusal decision by lodging an appeal with the Secretary of State.

A planning inspector would then be appointed to consider the plans and the council’s decision, and decide whether to uphold or dismiss the appeal.

For more information on the planning application and council ruling, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 22/02431/FUL