Plans for a new £14.1million estate on a former school site have been given the green light.
Last year, Placefirst Developments lodged plans for 116 homes on the ex-Easington Lane Primary School site, which has remained vacant for more than a decade.
This included a mix of 26 two-bedroom bungalows, 46 three-bedroom houses and 44 four-bedroom homes alongside a new children’s play area and community gardens.
On Tuesday (April 16), Sunderland City Council’s area Development Control Sub-Committee nodded through ‘build to rent’ scheme.
While council planners originally asked developers to pay £314,828 towards education provision in the area in a ‘section 106’ agreement, a reduced sum of £48,347 was agreed due to ‘viability issues’ around the estate.
The funds will be channelled into primary schools in the Hetton ward with any shortfall around education funded from a ‘capital receipt’ from the council selling the land, the meeting heard.
Councillors, sitting at Sunderland Civic Centre, were supportive of the plans with Coun Michael Dixon welcoming the number of bungalows.
“Other than Gentoo I can’t recall that many private firms building bungalows in the last thirty years,” he said.
Coun Mel Speding also raised concerns about how affordable the houses would be when the estate was completed.
Planning and development manager at Placefirst, James Litherland, said the developer’s market included “low to middle income working families”.
In practice, he argued, the new estate would “allow a new community to thrive” and provide a “security of home for life through renting.”
He added: “Drawing upon our experience elsewhere, we believe we can play an important role in retaining the local working age population and attracting people back to Easington Lane at all stages of their life.
“Our unique bungalow offer includes communal shared spaces for residents which are targeted at an older demographic and seek to encourage interaction to address issues of social isolation and loneliness.
“Placefirst is unique in that we design, build and manage all our own properties.
“The whole site including open space, landscaping and public realm will be maintained and managed by Placefirst in perpetuity.”
The Hetton-le-Hole scheme will be Placefirst’s second family build-to-rent community in the North East, following The Green in Hartlepool where 86 homes have been developed around a new urban park.
The developer aims to start construction this summer with the estate expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
Managing director of Placefirst, David Smith-Milne, speaking after the meeting, said: “Our plans for Hetton-le-Hole will deliver best in class rental homes for a growing demographic that rely on renting for their housing needs.
“Through Placefirst’s build-to-rent approach our residents are at the forefront of everything we do – we think long-term about the places we create and do as much as we can to build homes in an attractive, professionally managed setting where our residents enjoy living.
“More families are renting than ever before and the need for a reliable, quality offer has never been greater.
“Our homes offer a genuine, high-quality alternative for working families priced out of the housing market, or who prefer to the flexibility of renting.”
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service