Bid to turn doctors surgery into six flats rejected over rubbish, noise and drugs fears

The plans for the former Roker Family Practice have been rejected.
The plans for the former Roker Family Practice have been rejected.

Plans to transform a former doctors surgery into a house of multiple occupation (HMO) have been rejected by Sunderland City Council.

In September, Sunderland Accommodation Services lodged a ‘change of use’ application for the former Roker Family Practice in Roker Avenue.

New plans included building dormer extensions at the front and rear of the property to help boost room space to six flats.

This followed an earlier bid for a five-bedroom ‘dwelling house’ which was withdrawn following objections over the amount of shared accomodation in the area.

On Thursday, November 8, council planners refused the application over the appearance of the extensions, parking pressures and a recommendation from Northumbria Police.

Read more: New flats plan for former GP surgery in Sunderland’s Roker Avenue

A decision notice reads:“The local police has advised that the issue is around community cohesion and that approval of the application would undermine efforts by both police and council to manage resident unhappiness which was very evident over the summer.”

In June, calls were made to tighten up rules that allow landlords to turn houses in high-capacity flats as Roker residents looked to return streets to family homes.

The appeal by the Rokereye residents’ group came after it was revealed 60 per cent of 170-plus properties in Roker were classed as HMOs, with up to 10 people living at some addresses.

Residents added the rise of HMOs in the area had led to issues around drug use, fly-tipping, bags of waste being left in back lanes and noise concerns.

They hope that restrictions cam be put in place to cap the number of HMOs in Roker and elsewhere across the city as well as measures to reduce their numbers over time.

The council’s refusal notice adds the flats plan could lead to “indiscriminate on-street parking” due to the lack of parking provided by developers and the high demand in the area.

The decision notice adds: “Whilst a parking plan has not been submitted, the maximum in curtilage parking would appear to be two spaces in the rear yard; six less than sought by the highway authority.

“The absence of in-curtilage parking could therefore lead to indiscriminate on-street parking; in an area which has recently experienced increased demand for on-street parking.”

The Roker Avenue practice was forced to close in 2016 after GP, William Arnett, was struck off by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service for misconduct.

Sunderland Accommodation Services has the right to appeal the decision under council rules.

The firm have been appoached for comment on the issue.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service