Campaigners renew calls to scrap apartment plans for historic Jarrow church site after 'minimal' changes to proposals

Campaigners fighting plans for new apartments on the site of a burned-out historic church have said amended proposals ‘make little difference’ and renewed calls for the scheme to be scrapped.

The former Park Methodist Church in Bede Burn Road, dates from 1895, and was home to the Jarrow Auction Rooms company when it caught fire on November 24, 2017.

The property is not listed, but is one of South Tyneside Council’s ‘Locally Significant Heritage Assets’. The inside is gutted, but campaigners say the remaining shell is structurally sound and could be restored and reused.

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An application was registered with the council on February 11, 2021 by the building’s owners, Premier Leisure Ltd, who want full planning permission to demolish and build a five-apartment building with ground-floor parking.

The church has been a shell since the November 2017 fire.

Amended plans were drawn in January 2022, but do not satisfy opponents who say the changes are minimal, that it would be an eyesore, create parking issues and destroy an historic building “in the name of profit”.

Adam Naylor, a quantity surveyor who lives nearby, said: “The residents are strongly against demolishing the church which is a major piece of history on Bede Burn road.

“It is structurally sound and a refurbishment would be easily achieved with a bit of imagination as current design is out of touch with existing buildings.

“The developer has made no attempt to make this blend in. It’s of great historic value for Jarrow and should be protected.

The Bede Burn Road church has looked like this for over four years. Picture by Stu Norton.

"In general there is huge opposition. Others have sent letters out through our doors too.

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"They’ve quite literally stuck a pitched roof on the original rejected design. Clearly the developers are trying it on.

“The supporting documentation notes the significant historic value as the wish to record the detail. Cllr Meling, Cllr Kilgour and MP Kate Osborne have given us their full support too.”

Developers say the church can’t stay as it is and that there is no viable alternative.

The inside of the church looks much as it did the day after the 2017 fire.
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Tony Singh, director of Premier Leisure, said: “We’ve spoken to everybody. The church is an eyesore and it’s not fair on people living there. We want to put apartments there which are liveable.

“No one else is buying the place. It’s got to make commercial sense. There are no financial repercussions for the people making these comments.”

Consultation on the plans runs until February 15.

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From left, campaigners Maggie and Keith Davison, quantity surveyor Adam Naylor and Mark Kilgour are among those opposed to demolition.

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Local residents including Cllr Geraldine Kilgour, front, protesting in February 2021. Picture by Stu Norton.