Plans to transform South Tyneside industrial unit gets go-ahead despite objections

Plans to transform an industrial unit into offices have been given the green light by councillors – despite privacy and traffic concerns from neighbours.

Friday, 18th December 2020, 2:03 pm
Siemens, Hebburn Picture: Google

Earlier this year, Siemens lodged a planning application with South Tyneside Council to refurbish a building at its site off North Farm Road on the outskirts of Hebburn.

The plans aimed to provide more office space for staff as its existing office at Monkton Business Park is due to close.

However, proposals for offices and a new mezzanine floor sparked opposition from neighbours, with concerns ranging from congestion and noise to privacy loss.

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The application was recommended for approval at South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee earlier this week (December 14), with speaking statements from several St Aloysius View residents read to the committee.

Concerns included the intensification of noise, privacy loss, increased traffic and the lack of pre-application engagement from the applicant.

One objector statement said some demolition works had already taken place at the site with no enforcement action from the council.

Meanwhile, another objector raised concerns about the office’s first floor windows providing a direct view into children’s bedrooms.

The objector said: “My two young children have bedroom windows looking directly into the proposed office space which means they will never be able to have any sort of privacy in their own home again where they are supposed to feel safe.”

Calls were also made to delay a decision on the plans to allow for an independent noise assessment to be carried out.

Planning officers responded to the objector statements at the committee meeting, which was held via videolink and broadcast on YouTube.

They said a noise assessment was not needed as the proposal was for offices, rather than industrial use.

Planners added they were confident that the proposals would not be “harmful” to residential amenity and that council highways officers would monitor any potential traffic disruption.

Councillors also heard that the application had been amended in response to concerns including lowering the height of the first floor, moving air conditioning units and removing a previously proposed window.

In addition, the applicant agreed to install obscure glazing to the lower section of the first floor windows to restrict office worker views towards adjacent houses.

A design and access statement, submitted with the planning application, said the office development would not increase the overall level of staff beyond previous numbers.

A supporting statement from Siemens, read to the Planning Committee, said that affected residents would be welcome to have a look at the obscure glazing from the inside of the office.

The statement added the design of the project was produced at a “stringent time of lockdown” with a “deadline looming due to the impending closure of the Monkton office.”

It went on to say: “As a consequence, it was not viable to undertake any form of consultation or pre-application advice – this should not be seen as Siemens trying to run roughshod over the residents or the planning process.

“Circumstances simply prevented any pre-application engagement from taking place.”

During debate on the plans, Councillor Wilf Flynn raised concerns about overlooking and privacy issues from the offices.

Councillor Liz McHugh also suggested “opaquing all the [first floor] windows” on the grounds of safeguarding.

Planners, responding, said privacy concerns had been addressed by the applicant, with the obscured windows providing office workers with a view of the ‘roofs and the sky’ only.

Councillor Jeff Milburn added there was not a “strong enough [planning] reason” to reject the application and moved the planning officer’s recommendation to approve.

The Planning Committee approved the office plans with 8 votes in favour and four against.

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