New plans for controversial school building which closed after allegation

A Grade II listed building in South Tyneside – which controversially opened as a school for children with special needs – is to be converted into flats.

By Gareth Crickmer
Wednesday, 01 May, 2019, 06:00
St Bedes Chambers, Albert Road Jarrow

Planners have granted permission for St Bede’s Chambers, in Albert Road, Jarrow, to be redeveloped – with the agent representing its new owner describing it as a positive step forward.

Antony O’Toole said the move to create four apartments by a well-known national company that he was not allowed to name, would secure its long-term future.

He also insisted the concerns of some nearby residents around on-street parking – identified during South Tyneside Council’s public planning consultation – were unfounded.

Almost two years ago, the Harbour School Group opened the building as a centre for 11 to 16-year-olds with social and emotional mental health needs.

But it closed in March 2018 after South Tyneside and Gateshead councils withdrew children following an assault allegation by a pupil against a staff member.

Mr O’Toole of E&M Design Partnership, based in Rochford, Essex, said: “The building was advertised for offices for some time but there was no luck in getting anybody in.

“From our perspective, it’s important to get it in use to secure it for the long term.”

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“In essence, converting it from office into residential will limit the number of vehicles that will use the building.

“Residents will recall when it was a call centre and remember the arguments around that. There will maybe now be just one vehicle per flat.”

A council report reveals fears by three residents in adjoining Edith Street and Hill Street.

These include traffic problems and they insist a previous parking study is out of date.

Council case officer Helen Lynch said the planning proposal was in accordance with the government’s National Planning Policy Framework and the council’s adopted development plan policies.

Mr O’Toole said the development was being put out to tender and he could not say when conversion would start or finish, or the cost of the flats.