Sunderland planning chiefs delay decision on Gentoo plans for more than 100 homes in Southwick

Major plans for affordable homes in the Southwick area have stalled following ecology and green space concerns.

Last year, Sunderland City Council’s planning department received an application from Gentoo Group for outline planning permission for up to 110 houses on land north of Emsworth Road, in the Carley Hill area.

The proposals were recommended for approval by local authority, but concerns were raised over the removal of green space between the existing Carley Hill estate and Witherwack.

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Addressing decision-makers on the council’s Planning and Highways (East) Committee, Cllr Alex Samuels pointed to further feats the plans were “encroaching” on greenbelt land, could impact nature and wildlife in the area and increase traffic at the junction of Thompson Road and Carley Hill Road.

City Hall, Sunderland
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During debate on the plans, some members of the panel raised questions about ecological impacts linked to the proposed housing – however there was no ecologist in attendance to respond.

A report by planning officers suggested the net loss of biodiversity across the site could be offset by habitat creation to reduce the impact on the adjacent “site of special scientific interest”.

The report added the development would create “numerous ecological enhancement opportunities”.

Council planners also confirmed that the section of greenbelt included in the plans would not be used for houses but instead, solely for “ecological landscaping” as part of the mitigation for the scheme.

An agent speaking on behalf of Gentoo said the plans would deliver a “significant contribution” to affordable housing in Sunderland while helping to reduce anti-social behaviour in the area, as well assist the SARA project to plant hundreds of trees in the area.

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Councillors also heard that the site was due to be allocated for housing development in the council’s emerging allocations and designations plan.

However the arguments from council officers and developers were not enough to allay councillors’ concerns, prompting the committee to vote to defer the plans.

This aimed to allow councillors to visit the site and for the council’s consultant ecologist to attend a future meeting to answer questions.

Following the decision, the Gentoo Group application will return to the next meeting of the panel.

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