Council chiefs could force sale of Water's Edge site to 'deal with eyesore once and for all,' planning hearing told
Council chiefs are exploring using legal powers to force the sale of a pub site at the centre of a row over apartment plans.
Proposals for a three-storey building on the site of the Water’s Edge Pub at Trow Lea were rejected by councillors at a meeting in 2018.
The plans, which included demolishing the pub and creating a 23-apartment complex, sparked hundreds of objections from residents.
At an appeal hearing this week, South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm revealed his intention to pursue compulsory purchase powers if the appeal is dismissed.
“It would be my intention as leader of the council to instruct my officers to see whether or not legally the council can apply compulsory purchase,” he said.
“I don’t know if that is possible to seek compulsory purchase on this site in order to deal with this eyesore once and for all.
“All I would say is that plans for the foreshore are increased visitor numbers.
“We’re not anti-development or anti-commercialisation, we do have ambitious plans for the foreshore.
“It has always been the council’s intention that from the gypsies green up to the Souter Lighthouse, that area should be left open.
“It’s an area of outstanding natural beauty and should be left as such.
“I feel this development, if it goes ahead, will completely change the character of that part of the foreshore.”
The comments came during a hearing led by government-appointed planning inspector Sarah Housden on Tuesday, October 22.
Coun Malcolm, who represents the Horsley Hill ward, added the council had attempted to purchase the pub on several occasions but faced “inflated” prices.
Planning saga spans three years
The meeting is the latest development in a planning saga stretching back to 2016 when similar apartment plans for the site were withdrawn.
At the hearing at South Shields Town Hall, council officers discussed the planning committee’s reasons for refusal.
This included the visual impact of the apartments on the ‘undeveloped coast zone’ and grade II-listed Trow Rock Floating Platform, lack of affordable housing and the potential impact on neighbouring wildlife areas.
Other concerns included pressures on parking, road safety, the lack of demand for housing at the site and potential ‘urban edge impacts’ from future tenants – from pets and plants to barbecues.
Council officers also said that plans to develop market housing on the site would not be for public benefit.
The case for the development
Experts speaking on behalf of the appellant disputed points around design, appearance and visual impact and the policy around the ‘undeveloped coast zone’ – noting previous planning permission for the Water’s Edge pub itself.
The inspector heard apartments would enhance the landscape, “bring order to the site” and mark a clear divide between the pub site and National Trust land.
Planning agents added robust management would be put in place including behaviour guidelines being circulated to future tenants.
And an offer was also made to reduce the impact of the development in a ‘section 106’ agreement alongside conditions around potential light pollution.
However, the inspector heard the apartment complex itself could be hindered by a land use dispute on the site.
This includes appellant Kevin Brogan having a historic leasehold for the pub – with more than 92 years remaining – which could restrict the sale of private flats in future.
If the appeal is upheld, options could include the surrender of the existing lease and regranting of a new lease or South Tyneside Council disposing of its freehold on the land, the meeting heard.
However, a decision on this issue needs to be settled between the council and appellant.
Agent for the appellant, Dominic Waugh, added Mr Brogan tried to have “positive dialogue” with the local authority but faced issues.
This included claims the council were “unwilling” to meet and have conversations unless the appeal was withdrawn.
“In the view of the appellant, this flies in the face of positive and proactive work,” Mr Waugh added.
Following the hearing, the planning inspector will assess evidence from both parties before coming to a conclusion on the apartment complex.
This could include the appeal being upheld or dismissed, with the final decision published on the Planning Inspectorate’s website.
Visit: https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/ and search reference APP/A4520/W/18/3217280 for updates.