Plans approved for new apartments at South Shields riverside - despite ongoing row over access

Plans for a riverside apartment block in South Shields have been given the green light – despite concerns it could further restrict access to part of a national coastal trail.

By Chris Binding
Monday, 27th September 2021, 6:04 pm

Applicant Key West Three Ltd originally acquired the Long Row car park site as part of the purchase of the neighbouring Utilitywise buildings, which have since been transformed into apartments.

Conversion works included gating off a stretch of riverside walkway, which is understood to have been used as private amenity space for users of the apartments.

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How the new development could look.

Although a temporary diversion to the route is in place, objectors feared the plans for the four-storey apartment complex would create more barriers to riverside access.

The new application for apartments was discussed at a Planning Committee meeting at South Shields Town Hall on Monday, September 27.

Councillors heard that the scheme had sparked written objections from South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck, more than 60 neighbours and the Friends of Market Dock Path, alongside prompting a petition signed by thousands – with the main concerns based around coastal path access.

3D image of how the proposed apartment complex at Long Row could look Credit: Mario Minchella Architects

Beacon and Bents councillor Angela Hamilton, who referred the application to the council’s Planning Committee for decision, spoke on behalf of residents at the meeting.

The ward councillor stressed that the objectors were not against the principle of the apartment development but had concerns about it leading to further access implications for the England Coast Path.

Cllr Hamilton added: “With regards to those supporting and those objecting, those supporting this application already have access to that coastal path as it runs in front of their houses.

“Those objecting are those that are being deprived of the access to that coastal path.”

The site in question.

Council planners, recommending the planning application for approval, said there were no objections from Natural England and the council’s highways authority.

They added the plans could still be decided despite several outstanding issues around riverside access – which would be dealt with outside of the planning meeting under separate legal processes.

Any formal diversion of the England Coast Path at Long Row would require an application from Natural England, stakeholder consultation and final sign-off by the Secretary of State.

According to a planning report prepared for councillors, the riverside apartment plans would lead to a loss of coastal margin and would “likely necessitate a formal proposal by Natural England to divert the ECPalong Long Row, in due course.”

While there is no indication of a time-frame for any potential formal modification to the route, the report adds, Natural England “see no argument for prioritising a variation” at present.

A separate process to register the route as a public right of way also requires a “definitive map modification order” application to South Tyneside Council’s highways department.

Council planners confirmed that such an application had been made and if approved in future, public rights would exist and the developer would be legally required to “remove any obstruction.”

Following discussion, South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee voted in line with the recommendations of planners to approve the apartment scheme.

The proposed site for the new apartment complex was formerly used as parking for the former Utilitywise buildings and has more recently been used for storage.

A design and access statement from Mario Minchella Architects added the complex would be designed to make reference to “naval architecture” and the “marine setting.”

As part of a section 106 agreement linked to this week’s planning approval, planners are expected to secure £5,239 from the developer to reduce harm to nearby nature sites due to “increased recreational use of these areas.”

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