Planning chiefe in South Tyneside have given the go-ahead to a controversial education centre.
Up to 50 youngsters with special educantional needs will be taught at the Grade II listed St Bede’s Chambers, in Jarrow, when it is converted from offices to educational use.
The approval comes despite criticism of the project by around a dozen householders and ward Labour councillor Alan Kerr.
Several residents had written to South Tyneside Council, citing fears of an upsurge in traffic and parking problems on their doorsteps.
Some also said the plans were vague on the exact educational needs of pupils likely to attend the facility.
In council planning documents, the building’s new users - aged 11 to 16 - are described as ‘vulnerable’.
Coun Kerr questioned the building’s suitability as an education centre, saying he believed it could be put to better use.
The building was originally headquarters for the Cooperative and later a social club and call centre, and most recently six offices.
Permission to convert the site, on the corner of Albert Road and Hill Street, was granted by South Tyneside Council’s planning committee yesterday.
It rubberstamped the proposal, made by the Harbour Schools Group, which is believed to be based in Essex.
The group, which could not be contacted for comment, is described as delivering specialist provision for young people with social, emotional and mental health issues.
Its application states the building’s exterior and each classroom will be monitored by CCTV, with doors to the outside kept locked.
It insists students will arrive by taxi or public transport and that any off-site activity will be monitored by some of the 20 employees.
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.
In the past few years, its interior has been split into six offices, most of which have not been in use.
To alleviate parking concerns, the Harbour Schools Group claims plans are in place for employees to car share or arrive on public transport.
The centre will have classrooms, a workshop, main hall, meeting rooms, group rooms and other facilities.
Students will learn a mainstream syllabus, along with music and media, and vocational courses of brickwork, carpentry, decorating plumbing and catering.
Council chiefs say they will monitor parking and introduce special waiting and drop off zones.