Fears scandal-hit South Shields care home could become ‘bedsit land’

HOMES PLAN ... St Michael's View in South Shields.
HOMES PLAN ... St Michael's View in South Shields.

THE future of a former scandal-hit South Tyneside care home hangs in the balance over concerns that a proposed conversion plan could help create a new ‘bedsit land’.

Browns Lettings Agency in South Shields has submitted a planning application to change St Michael’s View, in the town’s Westoe area, 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.

But neighbours fear “undesirable” tenants could move into the building and have expressed worries over potential parking issues resulting from as many as 80 new residents.

Members of the council’s planning committee had been recommended to approve the application when they met this week.

In the event, the application was deferred until committee members have had the chance to pay a site visit.

The dispute is the latest controversy in the former home’s troubled history.

The complex, which closed in October, 2013, 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.

One of the objectors, who lives close to the former nursing home, expressed doubts at claims the complex was aimed at “professional people”.

The woman, who did not wish to be identified, said: “There is concern that the people who move in there could be undesirable types.

“I know there is going to be a caretaker on site, but that is no guarantee there will not be problems with behaviour in the building.

“They say it is aimed at professional people, but I can’t see professional people wanting to live in a bedsit and use a communal kitchen.”

Action to tackle the growth of so-called “bedsit-lands” in South Tyneside was approved by borough councillors earlier this year.

Over recent years, concern has been voiced about the increasing numbers of large family houses and office buildings being converted into homes in multiple occupancy (HMOs).

Members of the council’s decision-making cabinet recently agreed to the implementation of a direction enabling the local authority to control, through tighter planning rules, the spread of HMOs.

Kerry Brown, who runs Browns Lettings with her husband Paul and who lives in Westoe, said: “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.”