Residents hit out at planned centre for troubled boys

Edith Street residents Dennis Collier, left, and Benjamin Fettis.
Edith Street residents Dennis Collier, left, and Benjamin Fettis.

Residents have hit out after moves to open a new centre for boy with special educational needs on their doorsteps came a step closer.

They fear their peace will be shattered if up to 50 11 to 16-year-olds are taught at the Grade II listed St Bede’s Chambers in Jarrow.

St Bedes Chambers, Albert Road Jarrow

St Bedes Chambers, Albert Road Jarrow

Council planners have given the green light to the proposal, which could be rubber stamped by a South Tyneside Council committee next week.

It comes despite significant neighbour protests and an objection from ward councillor Alan Kerr.

They are concerned at the presence of youngsters described as ‘vulnerable’ and the impact of possible increased traffic and parking.

The Harbour School Group wants to transform the former Cooperative headquarters, social club and call centre, on the corner of Albert Road and Hill Street.

The group is described as delivering specialist provision for young people with social, emotional and mental health issues.

Coun Kerr said: “I think this building could be put to better use and I’ve made that clear. I’m unhappy about this proposal.”

Resident Dennis Collier, 62, of adjoining Edith Street, a retired chemical process operator, said: “These are kids with problems.

“When the building was a call centre, we had huge issues with parking and the council didn’t do anything about it.

“It’s been horrendous in the past and we are concerned it will be again.”

In 2007, the council rejected a plan to open the building as a dance studio, citing parking concerns.

Soon after, it gave permission for it to operate as a call centre, which employed around 250 people.

In the past few years, its interior has been split into six offices, most of which have not been in use.

The Harbour School Group’s application states the building’s exterior and each classroom will be monitored by CCTV, with doors to the outside kept locked.

It insists students will arrive by taxi or public transport and that any off-site activity will be monitored by some of the 20 employees.

To alleviate parking concerns, its application states plans are in place for employees to car share or arrive on public transport.

The centre will have classrooms, a workshop, main hall, meeting rooms, group rooms and other facilities.

Students will learn a mainstream syllabus, along with music and media, and vocational courses of brickwork, carpentry, decorating plumbing and catering.

The Harbour School Group could not be contacted for comment.

A final decision by South Tyneside Council’s planning committee is expected next Tuesday.