RESIDENTS are up in arms over a plan to change a former scandal-hit South Tyneside care home into rented apartments.
Browns Lettings Agency has submitted an application to South Tyneside Council to change St Michael’s View, in Westoe, South Shields, into a house of multiple occupation.
If approved, the building would be sectioned off into eight self-contained houses – each with four to 11 bedrooms.
Neighbours say they are concerned about the type of tenant who could be moving into the building and parking issues caused by as many as 80 new residents.
Kerry Brown, who runs the company with her husband Paul, says they have no need to worry.
She said: “I live in Westoe with my family, and my children go to the nearby school. This is going to be an upmarket development for professionals and mature students, I don’t want to live next to or work with undesirables, so I wouldn’t expect other people to.
“I am also going to be working from an office inside the building. There’s no way my husband would let me do that if we thought for one minute our tenants were unsafe.
“There’s not many things you could do with a building of this size.
“It could either stay boarded up and go to rack and ruin. An out of town developer could buy it, demolish it, and rebuild it so it’s no longer in keeping with the area.”
Alison Guthrie, of Madeira Terrace, is one of a group of neighbours who are against changing the use of the building.
She said: “We received a letter on January 21 outlining the plans and we are very concerned about what this will mean for area
“The letter started that “undesirables” wouldn’t be moving in, but how do we know that for certain?
“This building is right next to a children’s play park. To have unsavoury types, who may end up hanging around the park, would be terrible.”
Ms Guthrie and her neighbours have written letters of objection to the council.
Their second concern is parking. St Michael’s currently has 15 parking bays.
Ms Guthrie said “When it used to be a care home, visiting times were a nightmare. Cars used to line both sides of the street. Now there’s going to be potentially 88 people living there. If they have cars, it’s going to be chaos and also very dangerous for the children who like to play out.
“People want to feel safe living here.”
Mrs Brown says that, in reality there is a lot more parking.
She said: “There is huge patch of land to the side of the building which could accommodate another 20 vehicles.
“We’re marketing ourself to mature and overseas students at South Tyneside College and the vast majority of these don’t have their own cars.
A South Tyneside Council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that a planning application has been received to change the use of a vacant former nursing home in St Michael’s Avenue North, South Shields.
“The council has written to local residents giving them the legally required 21 days from the date of the notification letter to put forward any representations. Comments can also be received within 21 days of the site notices being displayed. Site notices were put up on 30 January.
“The application will be considered in due course with all concerns raised taken into consideration.”
Mrs Brown says anyone with concerns can contact her on 455 9617.
‘We don’t want problem tenants’
THE St Michael’s View scheme is the second time in recent months that Browns Letting Agency has been involved in a planning row.
Last month, South Tyneside Council’s planning committee rejected an application for advertising signs outside the company’s Wyvestow Lodge base in Sunderland Road, South Shields, which is also split into rental apartments.
The company appealed against that decision to the Planning Inspectorate, but inspector Peter Eggleton upheld the committee’s original decision after ruling that the signs are “entirely at odds” with the character of the Westoe conservation area.
However, Mrs Brown is hoping residents who are concerned about the changes to St Michael’s View will come and visit Wyvestow Lodge to see the type of tenants they attract.
She said: “People are more than welcome to drop in during the day and I will personally show them how the apartments look, how upmarket they are and the type of people we rent to.
“At the end of the day we are a family-run business. We don’t want to give ourselves any extra work by renting to problem tenants.”
St Michael’s View ceased to be a care home in October 2013.
The decision was made to close the site, which was home to 21 elderly people, during the summer on the grounds that it had became financially unviable and had seen a decline in the number of residents.
The closure was the final chapter of a troubled history for the building.
The building was the centre of a long-running police investigation after the death of 80-year-old resident Joyce Wordingham in February 2010.
Officers also investigated the deaths of 15 other residents at the home, which was under the management of the now-defunct Southern Cross at the time.
Care staff were prosecuted and others were made the subject of professional disciplinary measures after the police investigation.