Flats plans for historic former church turned auction rooms in Jarrow left derelict following fire rejected by South Tyneside development chiefs

Plans to bulldoze a fire-damaged former church to make way for apartments have been refused following hundreds of public objections.

The former Park Methodist Church, in Bede Burn Road, Jarrow, which was most recently used as an auction house, has been vacant since a fire caused extensive damage in November, 2017, causing the roof to collapse.

New proposals from applicant Premier Leisure aimed to clear the site and build an apartment complex in its place.

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The threat to the historic church, which was left a shell following a fire in November 2017, prompted a campaign to save it.
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This morning (Monday, September 26), South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee heard more than 430 written objections were submitted to the council over the plans.

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Concerns included the modern design clashing with the surrounding area; increased traffic and road safety issues; the impact on local wildlife, including bats; and loss of privacy and local heritage.

One comment, included in a report prepared for the panel, said the “demolition of such a beautiful and historic building and replacing it with this modern blot on the landscape would be a travesty”.

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Plans to demolish the former Park Methodist Church, in Bede Burn Road, Jarrow, have been rejected by planning chiefs at South Tyneside Council.

An online petition which attracted more than 370 signatures calling for the plans to be rejected and for the building to be preserved was also submitted to decision-makers.

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Ahead of the meeting to rule on the scheme, the council’s planning department had deemed the scheme acceptable, subject to conditions and recommended it for approval, noting the building did not benefit from national listed status and was not located within a conservation area.

A report presented to the committee noted the building ceased use as a church in 2014 and that new proposals would help “contribute to providing additional housing […] and additional range and choice of housing”.

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Borough councillors on the panel also heard much of the building’s “architectural heritage significance” had been lost due to fire damage and that developers maintained it would be “financially unviable to reconstruct and convert to residential accommodation”.

Aerial view of the former Park Methodist Church, in Bede Burn Road, Jarrow.
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No representative from the applicant Premier Leisure spoke at the meeting in support of the plans.

Cllr Geraldine Kilgour, speaking against the proposals, raised concerns about the design of the proposal and car parking issues and claimed the church building was an “irreplaceable” cultural heritage asset.

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And although Cllr Kilgour conceded redevelopment of the site was necessary, she added any future use, including accommodation, should be “in keeping with the local community”.

Park Methodist Church Jarrow:Park Methodist Church, Bede Burn Road, Jarrow:Park Methodist Church
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While discussing the application, Planning Committee members acknowledged the strong community feeling against the proposals and the proposed demolition of the church.

Some concerns were raised about the amount of parking proposed to serve the development, with comments also made on the feasibility of exploring other community uses.

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But it was a proposal from Cllr Wilf Flynn to refuse the application on the grounds the development’s design was “out of character with the area” which eventually won support from the committee.

After being put to the vote, the apartment plans were rejected, with seven councillors voting for refusal and three voting for approval.

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The applicant has the right to contest the decision by lodging an appeal with the national Planning Inspectorate.

The roof was badly damaged in a fire in 2017.
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Park Methodist Church Jarrow:Park Methodist Church, Bede Burn Road, Jarrow:Park Methodist Church
Park Methodist Church Jarrow:Park Methodist Church, Bede Burn Road, Jarrow:Park Methodist Church
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Park Methodist Church Jarrow:Park Methodist Church, Bede Burn Road, Jarrow:Park Methodist Church
Park Methodist Church Jarrow:Park Methodist Church, Bede Burn Road, Jarrow:Park Methodist Church