The Hawthorn Leslie yard closed in 1982 and its buildings haven’t been used since, becoming a magnet for deliberate fires and antisocial behaviour and branded a ‘deathtrap’, with plans to develop the site for housing seen as a win-win by some.
Hebburn Riverside Developments Ltd has asked South Tyneside Council for planning permission for the development, which would see vacant shipyard buildings will be pulled down to make way for a mixture of studio apartments, and one, two, three, four and five-bedroom homes.
But A&P Tyne, the last remaining shipyard in operation on the River Tyne, based at Wagonway Rd, Hebburn, has said it will fight a proposed residential development, which it fears could jeopardise jobs.
Bosses say the site is classed as industrial land and reserved for employment use, and fear the proposed development would restrict A&P Tyne’s business operations and hamper its future expansion plans.
However, those behind the development firmly insist the proposed development would not restrict any future expansion plans of A&P.
David McGinley, the company’s group chief executive officer, is concerned a housing development on the site would lead to conflict with new residents over noise from the shipyard.
“As one the region’s largest employers, A&P Tyne delivers significant economic benefits to the North East economy. However, our ability to drive economic value to the region is dependent on our ability to deliver our projects,” he said.
“A&P Tyne is an industrial business, with our workforce working around the clock to deliver critical projects on behalf of the MoD and the Seaborne asset community.”
He added: "We are extremely concerned that if it goes ahead A&P Tyne would be faced with ongoing conflicts around existing shipyard operations and the impact on future residents, which would lead to restrictions on our business operations.”
A&P Tyne has appointed consultants to review the planning application, which will assess the likely impact on ongoing business as well as future investment decisions.
The company also has concerns about what it calls “some of the assumptions made in the proposal with respect to noise levels, which are being investigated further”.
Mr McGinley said: “Ships have been built on the River Tyne for more than 200 years and we must protect our shipbuilding heritage.
“A&P Tyne is in a robust financial position and has performed well throughout the pandemic.
"We have a strong order book, and we are currently working alongside UK Government to help deliver the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which will lead to further shipbuilding projects and deliver additional economic benefits to the region.
“Our ongoing success also enables A&P to continue to invest in its apprenticeship scheme, which provides vital training opportunities to hundreds of young people.”
He said the company was “sympathetic for the need for new housing” but would fight the proposals at Hawthorn Leslie to protect its business.
LDA is the planning and development manager for the site owner, Hebburn Riverside Development Limited.
In a statement, it said: “In working up the scheme proposals, we have carefully considered adjacent uses. Whilst the A&P land closest to our site has been vacant for 20 years, we have nevertheless undertaken a comprehensive assessment which considers the scenario that the adjacent land and dry dock is, one day, used by A&P for its permitted use.
"The single aspect housing and decked car park along this site boundary would act as a noise barrier which, together with other mitigation measures, will ensure that both internal and external noise levels remain within the required standards even in the event that the adjacent land is fully utilised by A&P at some point.
"We therefore believe that the proposed development would not restrict any future expansion plans of A&P and that the regeneration of a long derelict site will deliver significant benefits for the local community, including many definite jobs in local construction and supply chains over several years.
"Furthermore, the site is dangerous and presents a serious hazard to the local community, and it is only a residential scheme which can afford the high costs of demolition, remediation and reclamation and have the viability to finally, after 20+ years of dereliction and no commercial demand, bring the Hawthorn Leslie site back into good economic use."