Anger over bid to turn South Shields ‘eyesore’ into homeless project

The former children's home in Stanhope Road, South Shields.
The former children's home in Stanhope Road, South Shields.

People living next to an “eyesore” building in South Tyneside say they feel they have been ignored over plans to transform it into a groundbreaking social enterprise for 15 homeless people.

The former children’s home in Stanhope Road, South Shields, has fallen into disrepair over the last decade but homeless charity Emmaus has bought the building and intends to use it for a new project for the borough which will see homeless adults – known as companions – living and working in the community.

If there’s nothing to worry about, then why has been done like this?

Sheila Lawson

The charity also aims to acquire a premises next to South Shields Town Hall, in which the companions will work recycling furniture.

It hopes to have both ventures up and running by September.

Nearby residents in Stanhope Road are angry that they have not been consulted about the plans – because planning permission was granted in 2012 for the building’s owner to turn it into a house of multiple occupancy.

The charity says it will be doing more work with the public in the next few weeks.

Sheila Lawson, who owns a house in Stanhope Road, said: “Planning permission was granted to turn this building into student accommodation three years ago, but that never happened, and it was left to 
become an even bigger eyesore.

“Because of this, we haven’t heard a thing or been able to express our concerns about who exactly will be living here.

“If there’s nothing to worry about, then why has been done like this?”

One woman, who did not wish to be named, said: “The scaffolding went up about a fortnight ago but I didn’t know why, I didn’t realise what was happening. The building is an eyesore, though.”

A 77-year-old resident added: “People have to have somewhere to live. I say we should give it a chance, but it would have been nice to have been told.”

Emmaus says none of the residents will have criminal records for serious violence, sexual abuse or child abuse. Nor will any have any current alcohol dependency or drug addictions.

Sue Wilson, chairwoman of Emmaus said: “We are a standalone charity and can’t cope with people who don’t follow the rules.

“Our companions will be at work full time, that’s one of the conditions of gaining a place with us. They won’t be around during the day and there is no alcohol allowed in the house.

“They are mainly single people, both men and women, who need a fresh start.

“Many are former solders who just haven’t adjusted to life on civvy street.

“I can see why people may have reservations but this set-up exists in 26 other places in the UK. It’s a tried and tested system. Not many people know our charity’s name in this area, as this will be our first social enterprise in the North East, but we hope that this will soon change.”

A South Tyneside Council spokeswoman said: “The council sold this property, a former residential home, in 2011. The new owner was granted planning permission in December 2012 to change the use of the property into a house on multiple occupancy. Public consultation was carried out as part of the statutory planning process.

“We understand that the charity Emmaus has since acquired the property and is implementing the existing planning permission. The council’s powers are limited.

“However we are mindful of residents’ concerns and will act appropriately if any issues arise.”