Plans to sell art school in park
MANY readers will be aware that the university is proposing to relocate the Art School to the St Peter’s Campus and to market Ashburne House, where it is presently located, for housing development.
The development is in the early stages but it seems it will involve retention of the original Ashburne House (dating from the 1830s) and the 1920s extension, and the redevelopment of the 1960s block to the west.
The university hosted an open evening recently for interested members of the public and the city council has prepared a development brief for the site. This brief states that the site “is available – there are no legal or ownership problems, the landowner (the university) has expressed an intention to sell”.
However, the legal situation may not be quite as straightforward as this implies, and my reason for writing this letter is to make public the potential complication.
Thomas William Backhouse was the last private owner of Ashburne and its grounds, which became Backhouse Park.
He left the property to be gifted to the Corporation of Sunderland for a public park and pleasure ground.
The initial terms were not acceptable but after negotiations the house and grounds were conveyed to the Corporation in 1922, the permitted uses being a public park and teacher college or hostel.
Before the Corporation could use it as an art college (a relatively minor variation on the original use) the consent of the personal representatives of Mr Backhouse was obtained, this being in 1931.
The current intention, to dispose of the house and wider site for residential use (involving conversion of the original house and 1920s building), is clearly a more substantial departure from the originally agreed use as a teacher college, and assuming the restrictive covenant still remains, the representatives of the Backhouse family will have to be contacted to give their consent.
I emailed the university to this effect on March 30 and again on April 6. I received a holding reply from the Facilities Department informing me that the university’s legal adviser was looking into it, but to date I have had no definitive reply regarding the position in relation to this covenant.
I find this most disturbing, as I suspect will many of your readers with an interest in the park.
John Tumman, Sunderland
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Thanks for help
MAY I thank the three gentlemen and the young nurse who came to my aid when I suffered a heavy fall at the rear of Church Street, Seaham, on Friday, April 15.
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My thanks also to the ambulance crew.
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