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LOUIS CAFE: Student flats approved for beloved former Sunderland cafe

LOUIS CAFE: Student flats approved for beloved former Sunderland cafe

Image: Google Images

The former home of a beloved Sunderland cafe is set for a new lease of life as student apartments.

This week, Sunderland City Council’s planning department approved a planning application to redevelop the iconic Louis Cafe building.

The business first started in Ryhope in 1924 and later opened in Crowtree Road in Sunderland city centre, before moving premises to Park Lane in 1975.

However, it closed its doors for the final time in 2018 after owners took the difficult decision to cease trading.

New plans from MTA Land Investments, approved on Monday, March 22, will secure major renovation works and a new use for the vacant building.

This includes converting the ground floor into a retail unit and two studio apartments and extending the building upwards by two storeys to provide more student accommodation.

When completed, six ‘cluster’ apartments will be created across the three upper floors, each offering between five and six bedrooms.

Initial plans intended to use the ground floor studio apartments for disabled accommodation but amendments were made as part of the planning process.

Instead, two accessible rooms will be incorporated within the shared apartments above, with the ground floor studio apartments now providing standard living space.

The complex will also include associated office/reception space, refuse and cycle storage facilities on the ground floor and communal facilities, such as a laundry room, gym, cinema room and games room, within the basement.

Last year, St Michael’s ward councillor, Michael Dixon, asked for the application to be ‘called in’ to the council’s area Planning and Highways Committee for decision.

At the time, he said this would “serve the public interest best” by allowing the “people of the city to follow this application through the committee process.”

Following consultation on the plans, the application was approved by council planning officers under delegated powers, with no planning committee hearing held.

In a decision report, planners noted the site was in a sustainable location and would bring an empty building back into use.

The report reads: “The current building is in need of repair and upgrading and the proposals provide a contemporary high-quality refurbishment that will hopefully be a catalyst for other similar buildings on the high street.”

Developers say the accommodation scheme will provide each student with a double bedroom with a TV, wi-fi and a private en-suite shower room.

The scheme also aims to “ensure that each flat will have a good-sized shared kitchen and dining/living room space.”

A report from council planners adds: “The proposal is unlikely to adversely impact upon the visual amenities of the host property or the area in general, residential amenity or highway safety.

“The proposal has been found to be acceptable in terms of considerations relating to noise and, subject to restrictive conditions, biodiversity.“

Millfield and Thornholme ward councillor, Andrew Wood, also wrote in support of the application during the consultation process.

A planning report, summarising Cllr Wood’s comments, states: “The writer sees the development as likely to result in a greater vibrancy in the area by mixing residential with existing businesses, helping to achieve the goal for Sunderland to be a dynamic, healthy and vibrant city.”

For more information on the application, visit the council’s planning portal and search reference: 20/02005/FUL

Words: Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporter


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