Retirement complex plans get go-ahead on site of former Sunderland school

Plans to build a retirement complex on a former school site have been given the green light, despite concerns over potential impact on a conservation area.

Tuesday, 5th June 2018, 8:19 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th June 2018, 8:27 am
The former Sunderland High School.
The former Sunderland High School.

Sunderland City Council’s area development control sub-committee met today (June 4) to discuss the future of Sunderland High School, which closed in 2016.

New plans for the site include demolishing the existing canteen and food technology block and building a 57-apartment complex alongside - replacing sports pitches with a 36-space car park.

In March, councillors deferred the application over concerns current building designs would impact on the Ashbrooke Conservation Area – a view shared by Historic England, who also objected to the facility.

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The revised plans aim to match the “arts and crafts” style architecture of buildings in the area, a council report states, with extra balconies, decorative features/cladding and a new entrance.

Councillors, sitting at Sunderland Civic Centre, also heard Historic England had withdrawn its objections as amendments were “in keeping with the conservation area”.

Liberal Democrat leader Coun Niall Hodson described many of the design alterations as “superficial” and “window dressing”, while also noting the “footprint” of the plans had not changed.

Senior planning officer Jamie Reed explained that extra care facilities have to be a certain size to be viable with an agent for the developer adding the size and number of rooms keeps costs down for customers.

Mr Reed added that a new application for the adjoining St Cuthbert’s House site would see unused buildings demolished and provide “breathing space for the scheme”.

Deputy leader of Sunderland CIty Council, Michael Mordey, also described the plans as “much-needed accomodation” which would match similar extra care facilities in Ashbrooke.

Applicant YourLife Management Services Ltd provides services for care homes and independent living projects and submitted their application in December last year.

Plans include demolishing a two-metre stone wall enclosing the Southern part of the former school site to provide access.

Heritage buildings – including grade-II listed Langham Tower, Tudor-styled villa Carlton House and St Cuthberts House – are not included in the application.

The committee heard that the retirement complex, when completed, would create 14 full-time and nine part-time posts, alongside boosts to employment during the construction phase.

Following discussion, the plans were given the go-ahead, with 12 councillors voting for and one against.

Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service