The planning agent behind a new offices development in Jarrow has claimed it will bring a business boost to South Tyneside – despite objections from neighbouring householders.
Antony O’Toole said the change of use of the Grade II listed St Bede’s Chambers, which opened briefly last year as a special needs school, would support employment.
He confirmed the Albert Road premises could accommodate six business but admitted it was not yet being actively marketed to attract firms.
Last week council planners gave the go ahead for the two-storey property to revert to office use.
It came despite 11 objection letters being sent to South Tyneside Council from residents in Edith Street and Hill Street.
Their fears included possible increased parking congestion and a lack of clarity about what type of businesses might move in.
But Mr O’Toole, who did confirm who was behind the planning application, said: “In terms of who will use the offices, they’re not actively being advertised at this time.
“The intention was always to get planning approval first.
“This is a real heritage asset and will probably be six offices, hugely benefiting employment in the area.
“It has a good location and is well suited in terms of transport and the town centre, so hopefully businesses can use it well.”
St Bedes Chambers was originally the headquarters of the Cooperative but around 10 years ago opened as call centre, employing around 250 people.
When that business relocated, its interior was split into six offices, most of which were not in use by the time planning permission was granted for use as a school.
But SBC School, which opened in September to support youngsters with social and emotional mental health needs, and operated by Harbour Schools Group, closed in March.
The Gazette revealed it had been subject to police and safeguarding investigations just weeks before shut-down, although no further action was taken.
Council planners say they will consider introducing a parking permit scheme when they know employee numbers within the premises. Such a scheme was started but ended when the school closed.
As conditions of planning consent, the development must have space for up to 15 bicycles before it can open, and it can only operate from 7.30am to 8pm.
A report by the council said: “It is considered that due to the residential nature of the surrounding streets that a business operating late into the evening could cause a loss of amenity to neighbouring occupiers.
“Neighbour representations have been received which have raised concern over the former use of the building as offices and its operation into the evening as a call centre.
“It is considered that due to concerns raised and the nature of the immediate area being predominantly residential that consideration of the hours of use is required.”