Sunderland home to become ‘assisted living’ flats after council approval

The future of the property on Thornhill Gardens has been discussed by the council.
The future of the property on Thornhill Gardens has been discussed by the council.

Plans to convert a home into a care unit for vulnerable people have been given the go ahead, despite concerns over lack of space for residents.

This week (June 4), Sunderland City Council’s (SCC) area development control sub-committee met to discuss the future of the property, 34 Thornhill Gardens.

The meeting took place this week.

The meeting took place this week.

The plans, by Falcon Housing Association, aim to convert the Sunderland home into a residential care unit with three flats, two apartments and a new staircase and entrance to the basement.

The aim is to provide accomodation for “assisted independent living” for five adults moving on from a communal and institutional living environment, a council report states.

During consultation, concerns were raised about the lack of outdoor space for the unit, lack of background on residents staying there, disruptive construction work and building alterations.

Concerns about the size of the building were echoed at Sunderland Civic Centre, with Coun Patricia Smith stating the property “isn’t big enough for it’s intended use”.

Leader of SCC’s Liberal Democrats group, Coun Niall Hodson, added assisted living units were a “worthy cause” but noted the rising number of such facilities in the city.

“The number of these types of applications is a concern for residents and is changing the character of the area,” he said.

Further objections came from Thornholme Residents Association and Coun Michael Dixon, who noted a similar application in the area which was rejected by SCC and upheld by a planning inspector at appeal.

He explained the property had a lack of amenity space for residents with staff parking in a rear yard and a small garden at the front.

“Vulnerable people desperately need outdoor space and the nearest amenity spaces are public parks which are a long walk away with busy roads surrounding,” he said.

Adele Graham-King, speaking on behalf of Thornhill Gardens residents, added the plans conflicted with UK Government’s Technical Housing Standards (2015) regarding room space.

“It doesn’t provide that care or quality of accomodation with very limited internal amenity and these people deserve more,”  she said.

A planning officer confirmed SCC has not adopted the living space reccomendations but would consider them in the council’s local plan to 2033, which is currently in consultation.

The committee also heard concerns about fire escapes would be dealt with by building regulations, which are a separate legal process.

SCC’s cabinet member for housing and regeneration, Coun Stuart Porthouse, said if the application was to be refused, it would have to be based on “material” planning regulations.

Deputy leader of SCC, Coun Michael Mordey, added that if the rejected application was overturned by a developer’s appeal, it would cost SCC “tens of thousands of pounds”.

“If the committee were to reject this application today, someone would have to move a recommendation and say what policies it would be based on,” he said.

No recommendation was made to reject the plans, with nine councillors voting in favour and three against.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service