Sunderland autism home ordered to use soundproofing

Thornbeck College, Thornhill Park
Thornbeck College, Thornhill Park
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A RESIDENTIAL home for people with autism must be soundproofed and a management plan put in place to control behaviour.

Members of Sunderland Council’s development control sub-committee put the conditions on plans to turn Thornbeck College into a residential centre, after hearing neighbours’ concerns.

The North East Autism Society (Neas) wants to change Thornhill Park College from a non-residential training centre into a house for six adults, which will also be manned by six members of staff.

Peter Storey, who lives next door, said he and other residents already had to put up with antisocial behaviour, such as bricks being thrown into the garden, and they were worried about the prospect of it becoming a home.

He told the meeting at the civic centre: “We endure the challenging behaviour and accept it because we know that come 5pm it will stop, but that won’t be the case if people are living there.”

Mr Storey said a number of years ago the house was used as a residential property for people with similar needs, and the noise in the night was frightening.

He added: “At 3am, there would be the most unnatural howling and screaming and rattling beds.

“How can I explain that sort of noise to a three-year-old?”

At the moment, there are up to 36 members of staff at the college.

Michael Gray, of Beechwood Terrace, said he and other residents there had signed a petition in favour of the change of use, because their street is used as an unofficial car park by the staff, creating huge disruption and problems for residents.

“The cars are parked down either side of the street,” he said.

“There are a number of elderly residents and in an emergency there would be great difficulty in parking an ambulance there.”

However, he said although the change of use would benefit Beechwood Terrace residents, they were also aware of the problems facing the Thornhill Park residents and suggested Neas should soundproof the house and put an agreed management strategy in place to control behaviour.

Councillors agreed with the suggestion and approved the planning application subject to the conditions.

In its plans, NEAS will create staff facilities in the basement level along with a communal room, dining area and kitchen.

The ground floor will have two bedrooms with ensuite facilities, a shared sitting room, laundry and office, the first floor will have two bedrooms with a shared sitting room, kitchen and bathroom and on the second floor will be two self-contained flats.

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