Mystery over plans to turn shut-down school back into offices

The SBC School building in Jarrow.
The SBC School building in Jarrow.

Mystery surrounds a new planning proposal to turn a short-lived South Tyneside special needs school back into offices.

SBC School, based in the Grade II listed St Bede’s Chambers in Albert Road, Jarrow, closed suddenly in March.

It had opened for business in September to support youngsters with social and emotional mental health needs and was operated by Harbour Schools Group.

Last month the Gazette revealed it had been subject to police and safeguarding investigations just weeks before it shut-down.

Detectives probed the claims but no further action was taken.

However, it led to South Tyneside and Gateshead councils withdrawing 17 youngsters they had placed there.

As a result, the school is thought to have suffered financial difficulties, leading to its permanent closure and liquidation.

A new planning application, to turn the interior into offices, has now been filed with South Tyneside Council.

The applicant is named only as Mr A O’Toole and council planners could provide no further details of his identity.

However, the applicant’s agent, Antony O’Toole, of Rochford, near Southend-on-Sea, Essex, confirmed he is the brother of Alex O’Toole, who worked at SBC School.

He would not say if his brother was the applicant or give any further details of the planning proposal.

The premises had previously been a headquarters for the Cooperative.

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, where around 250 people were employed.

Most recently, its interior has been split into six offices, most of which were not in use.

Some residents in nearby streets had complained about issues over parking and noise.

The public can comment on the proposal until Thursday, May 10.