Apartments and HMOs approved for former Buzzers sports bar in South Shields

Plans to convert a former South Shields bar and social club into apartments and HMOs have been given the green light by councillors.
The former Buzzers building.The former Buzzers building.
The former Buzzers building.

South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee approved plans for the town’s former Buzzers Bar at a meeting this week.

Developers Beaumont and Partners Ltd plan to redevelop the vacant sports bar building, which sits on the junction of Victoria Road and Imeary Street, to create a mix of accommodation.

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This includes six self-contained residential apartments and two eight-bedroom house in multiple occupation (HMO) apartments.

During council-led consultation exercises, the plans sparked opposition from neighbours with concerns ranging from the development’s visual impact and impacts on the character of the area, to the introduction of new HMOs.

Councillor David Francis, Beacon and Bents ward member, also made a request for the application to be decided by the council’s Planning Committee.

In a written statement, Cllr Francis raised concerns about the “overconcentration” of HMOs in this area of South Shields, the development’s impact on the “residential amenity of neighbours” and the “negative impact on the character of the neighbourhood”.

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Although developers originally proposed a larger apartment scheme with plans to add an extra floor to the building, this was shelved during the planning application process.

At a decision-making meeting at South Shields Town Hall on June 19, 2023, the final plans for apartments and HMOs were approved by a majority of councillors.

Despite council planning officers advising the Planning Committee to consider the uses of the building rather than the future users, there was a lengthy debate about HMOs and occupancy.

This included concerns about existing issues with vulnerable residents being placed into HMO accommodation in South Shields and associated crime and disorder impacts.

Council planners, recommending the apartment and HMO scheme for approval, maintained the scheme did not represent “overdevelopment and that no rooms were “unacceptably small”.

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While it was admitted that the development would generate some car parking impact, no objections were raised by council highways officers.

Councillors spent some time discussing whether to impose a condition around occupancy for the HMO apartments, including whether to have one person per bedroom or to allow more.

However it was noted that a planning condition could be too “prescriptive” and that occupancy issues could be dealt with by the council’s licensing department when it considers HMO licences for the development.

Councillor Sarah McKeown suggested deferring the application to encourage developers to “rethink the HMO element” and redesign the scheme.

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It was suggested that the scheme could include more self-contained one-bedroom apartments, instead of HMO units with communal areas.

Councillor Lynne Proudlock, who led calls to approve the application without any occupancy condition, referenced a statement from developers about intended occupier at the South Shields site.

The statement stressed the company has a “sizable portfolio” and its own lettings team, with properties typically occupied by “working professionals who have to pass a screening process”.

Cllr Proudlock told the meeting: “The majority of the [development] will be used by single individuals who just purely want somewhere to put their head down and go to work and come back and that’s it.

“The housing the way it is these days they just can’t afford to buy. In this present climate, it’s just so expensive for young people to buy a house or get a mortgage etc.

“This is ideal for what young people want so I’m going to propose that this development goes ahead”.

After being put to the vote, the plans were approved by a majority of councillors present.

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The approval decision is subject to a Section 106 agreement, which is used to secure funding from developers to reduce the impacts of developments.

In the case of the former Buzzers Bar, the legal agreement is expected to secure funds for a ‘traffic regulation order’ linked to parking restrictions.

Under planning conditions the apartments and HMO scheme must be brought forward within three years.

Details around the occupancy of HMOs are expected to be considered by council licensing chiefs in future.