Controversial Fowler Street HMO in South Shields put on hold over fire safety fears

Plans for a new house in multiple occupation (HMO) in the centre of South Shields have been put on hold over fire safety fears.

Monday, 30th September 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 12:16 am
Properties in Fowler Street, South Shields

South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee were asked to consider proposals for flats in Fowler Street at a meeting on September 30.

This included an eight-bedroom HMO in the upper floors of 86A and 86B – sites formerly used as office space.

The proposals follow a bid for an 11-bedroom HMO in the upper floors of 84C Fowler Street – approved by planners in April.

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Both HMO plans were lodged by the same applicant, listed in planning documents as Mohammed Al-Saraf.

At the meeting at South Shields Town Hall this week, councillors raised concerns about the buildings being joined together – effectively creating a 19-bed HMO.

‘In my day, it wouldn’t be allowed’

Coun Gladys Hobson also noted potential fire safety issues around shared access routes for future tenants.

She told the meeting: “I’m quite alarmed by this as somebody who has run hotels and guesthouses in the past, I know that the regulations on fire and access and egress are very strict.

“On considering this application, I was concerned to find out that the two adjoining properties will now use the same access and egress.

“From a fire point of view, I’m concerned that the egress from the rear is through the kitchen, in my day that would never have been allowed, if a fire was going to start anywhere it would probably be in the kitchen.

“The access from the front where [the report says] a roller shutter will be rolled up, what happens if it’s rolled down from the outside and people are trapped inside.”

She added: “There’s very little in [the report] from the fire department, when you’re putting a planning application in for a HMO, there should be fire doors all the way through the process.

“The access and egress should be pointed out very specifically and I think joining the two HMOs together to gain this access and egress is a complete nonsense.”

In recent months, the council’s Place Select Committee launched a public commission into HMOs to explore the support available for vulnerable tenants in the borough.

So far, discussions have included possible links to crime, absent landlords and quality issues in the private rented sector.

Is there a need?

Coun Anne Hetherington, who called the application in for Planning Committee decision, said the plans should be put on hold until the probe concludes.

She added: “I’m concerned about what the 365 regeneration team would have to say about this, I know that area was one of the prime sites for 365.

“I would like to see some comments from the regeneration team about the proposals for that area before we go ahead.

“Also, one of the things we’re looking at is the range of choice of good quality affordable homes to meet identified housing need.

“There is no information in there to suggest there’s an actual need for this type of property.

“We seem to be continuously approving these kinds of applications without due consideration to whether there’s an actual need or if we’re contributing to an overdevelopment of HMOs.”

Councillors agreed to defer the plans to allow for more information on the above concerns.

Following the vote, the HMO plan will return to a future meeting for decision.