Plans to turn South Shields offices into flats gets go-ahead on third attempt

Controversial plans for a new house in multiple occupation (HMO) in South Shields town centre have been given the green light.

Thursday, 21st November 2019, 4:17 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 1:23 pm

Plans for eight flats in former office space in Fowler Street have been deferred by councillors twice in recent months.

On both occasions, South Tyneside Council’s planning committee raised concerns about the scale of the development.

This included the proposals joining up with already approved flats on the street, effectively creating a 19-bedroom HMO.

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Fowler Street, South Shields Picture: Google

HMOs are currently in the spotlight under a commission by the council’s Place Select Committee in a bid to improve support and standards for tenants in the private rented sector.

Councillors have previously called for the Fowler Street plans to be put on hold until the investigation reveals its findings.

On Monday, November 18, councillors followed advice from planning officers to approve the application.

Coun Doreen Purvis told the meeting: “I was a member of the Place Select Committee that launched the commission into HMOs.

“We did express concerns about the whole ethos of this type of housing, was it there to make money or to fulfil a need?

“Generally we felt that the types of accommodation on offer weren’t high quality or about improving the lives of people, it was about how much can they get out a property in rental.

“But that argument is for another place and another time.”

She added: “What is in front of us today – we can’t keep on kicking the can down the road and hoping that something will turn up.

“We have to take a decision, I have to say the time has come where we have to agree this no matter what our reservations are on the matter and look to fight on different ground over the proliferation of HMOs.”

Recommendations from the HMO commission are expected to feed into the council’s emerging local plan.

However, councillors were told this would not come into effect until 2021 at the earliest.

Planning committee chairman, Coun Alan Smith, explained: “Planning legislation requires planning applications to be determined against the current adopted development plan.

“Even if the HMO commission’s draft recommendations are agreed by cabinet, they would only carry limited weight.”

Coun Gladys Hobson, who raised fire safety concerns about the Fowler Street plan at previous meetings, moved a recommendation for approval.

“I’m very reluctant to move this there are a lot of concerns that we have outlined in the past,” she said.

“I just hope the fire department are very scrupulous in looking at this property when they come to do it following the recent fire in student accommodation [in Bolton].”

Following discussion, the HMO plans were carried with a majority vote.

Findings from the council’s HMO commission are expected to be presented to cabinet in January next year.