Fitness studio plan approved in 'bold' new use for historic former church in East Boldon

Plans to revive a former church building as a fitness studio have been given the stamp of approval by development bosses.

Back in June, 2022, South Tyneside Council’s planning department registered an application for the Boldon United Reformed Church at 53 Front Street in the Cleadon and East Boldon ward.

According to planning documents submitted with the application, the building dates back to around 1876 and had a further extension in the 1970s.

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The building is also locally listed by South Tyneside Council and is noted to make a “bold contribution to the street scene”.

There are plans to create a fitness studio using the former Boldon United Reformed Church building. Picture c/o Google Streetview.There are plans to create a fitness studio using the former Boldon United Reformed Church building. Picture c/o Google Streetview.
There are plans to create a fitness studio using the former Boldon United Reformed Church building. Picture c/o Google Streetview.

Under new plans, the vacant church is set to be converted into a fitness studio which, applicants say, would be suited to the building’s open plan layout.

During council consultation on the planning application, 35 letters of support from 31 addresses were submitted.

Comments from supporters said the plans would be a “positive asset to the local area” and that there was “no other facility like this in the village”.

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Elsewhere, one letter of objection was submitted raising concerns about noise and parking impacts.

After considering the application and assessing it against planning policies, South Tyneside Council’s planning department approved the fitness studio scheme on July 25, 2022.

Council planners, in a decision report, said the proposed fitness studio use would not lead to “significant disturbances to residential properties from sources such as noise, odours or fumes”.

Development chiefs also noted there would be no alterations to the external historic fabric of the building and therefore, no “significant harm” to its “significance”.

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On highways and parking impacts, the planning decision report adds: “In conclusion it is not considered that the change of use from a church to a fitness studio would result in a significantly greater level of traffic to/from the site nor lead to significant parking problems in the area, given the level of public transport provision in the area and given provision of car parking as existing on Boldon Lane and also in surrounding streets.”

Applicants previously said the fitness studio would make provision for “level access, internal circulation and accommodation for disabled users”.

A submitted design and access statement added the site was “suitably located within the main street of East Boldon” and accessible for residents and visitors, as well as being based on a public transport route.

Proposed business opening hours include 9am to 7pm, Monday to Friday and 9am to 12noon on Saturdays, with no opening on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

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Under planning conditions, work must start on the development within three years.

Previous council documents detail the building as being of coarse limestone with sandstone dressings, with an earlier red-brick church hall dating to around 1863.

It lists both as ‘typical gothic revival buildings of their time and, though modest, make bold contributions to the street scene worthy of their use and significance’.

Authors are less complimentary about ‘the boxy 1970s extension to the church’, however, noting it is ‘a poor addition in form, materials and siting, with its dull, blank elevations’.

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For more information on the fitness studio plan, visit South Tyneside Council’s online planning portal and search reference: ST/0280/22/FUL

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