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SUNDERLAND CITY COUNCIL: Monkwearmouth Hospital planning row update

SUNDERLAND CITY COUNCIL: Monkwearmouth Hospital planning row update

Monkwearmouth Hospital Picture: Google

NHS chiefs are planning to appeal a decision by Sunderland City Council after councillors refused plans to demolish and redevelop part of Monkwearmouth Hospital.

Earlier this week, Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways (East) Committee voted to reject proposals for the site off Newcastle Road.

The plans aimed to demolish the main hospital building and two blocks adjacent to Elizabeth Street to make way for a new clinical office development.

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), which operates the hospital, said the works would provide “fit-for-purpose” facilities.

However, the scheme attracted strong opposition from neighbours who raised concerns about loss of heritage, impacts on privacy and noise and traffic impacts.

The planning refusal on Monday (November 29) saw a majority of councillors vote against the advice of council planning officers.

Following the ruling, CNTW bosses have confirmed they are planning to lodge an appeal.

This would see the planning application dealt with by the national Planning Inspectorate, with a planning inspector appointed to rule on the matter.

Despite contesting Sunderland City Council’s planning decision, NHS trust bosses have maintained that they will involve neighbours in ongoing plans for the Monkwearmouth Hospital site.

James Duncan, Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director of Finance at CNTW said: “In developing this proposal the trust has always tried to balance the need to provide high quality health services for the wider population of Sunderland, with being a good neighbour to the people of the surrounding area.

“The current buildings are not structurally sound and don’t provide a suitable environment for therapeutic care or for staff wellbeing.

“Our proposals will enable us to continue to provide locally based community mental health support for all ages on a site that is accessible and well known to the people of Sunderland.

“We will continue to work with our neighbours and involve them in our ongoing plans for the site.

“Most importantly, we need to ensure that our vital services, supporting people of all ages with their mental health needs, can continue to be delivered safely and effectively in the heart of the community in Sunderland.

“We will therefore be appealing the decision.”

In a presentation to councillors this week, Sunderland City Council planners said the development would enhance and modernise existing hospital facilities and improve accessibility to services.

However controversial aspects of the scheme included the relocation of a car park and the demolition of the hospital’s front entrance.

Objectors also raised concerns about the quality of the pre-application consultation from developers, alongside arguments that the clinical office development’s design would clash with the character of nearby dwellings.

Although calls were made for the building’s stone ‘portico’ entrance to be retained and incorporated into new plans for the site, developers maintained this was not feasible.

Campaigners have said they are “disappointed” with the trust’s intention to appeal and are asking health bosses and developers to go back to the drawing board on proposals for the site.

One resident involved in the campaign, Joanne Roulstone, said: “If only the trust had respected and worked with local residents before putting pen to paper, then they may have been in the position of being able to present a much more palatable proposal for development.

“We ask that the trust and their developers, instead of simply attempting to appeal this decision, go back to the drawing board and rethink their plans, ensuring that they incorporate the preservation of heritage, respect for the local environment and place value on community opinion before submitting their proposals.”

Fulwell ward councillor Michael Hartnack, who has supported residents throughout the campaign, added he was “extremely disappointed” with the impending appeal from CNTW.

Cllr Hartnack said: “I sincerely hope their appeal fails, especially given the fact that the local Planning Committee rejected their flawed, inconsiderate and unsatisfactory planning application.”

Words: Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporter


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