Plans to demolish a fire-damaged former pub to make way for housing are set to go before councillors for decision for a third time.

Members of South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee will be asked next week to decide on the future of the former Whitburn Lodge site, off Mill Lane (A183), in the Whitburn area.

Since closing its doors in 2012 the derelict pub site has been the target of break-ins and deliberate fires, including a blaze on New Year’s Day 2023 which destroyed large sections of the roof and caused extensive damage inside.

Back in 2023, national housebuilder Lovell Partnerships announced it had bought the building and associated land, and soon after submitted plans to build 32 homes at the site.

The planning application has sparked several public objections raising concerns about a range of issues, from sewerage capacity to increased traffic, along with a petition calling for the site to be demolished.

At the same time, concerns have been raised about the loss of the former pub building, which comprises the remains of Hope House dating from the 18th century, as well as concerns about impacts on the Green Belt.

The housing plans have seen setbacks since first being listed for decision at a meeting of South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee.

The application was due to be decided by councillors on February 12, 2024,  but was withdrawn from the agenda due to an “administrative issue”.

The plans then returned before councillors on March 11, 2024, but were deferred again following councillors’ concerns about sewage and water pollution.

Council planning officers at the time maintained there had been in-house council analysis around drainage issues, but later confirmed they had not received “statistical evidence” from Northumbrian Water around capacity in the sewerage system.

Councillors said they did not have sufficient information in respect of foul drainage capacity and water pollution to make a decision on the new homes.

A decision on the plans is now due to be made at a Planning Committee meeting on May 20, 2024.

A report prepared for councillors states that the council contacted Northumbrian Water and the Environment Agency and that their responses were included in an updated council committee report.

It was also noted that the updated committee report “reflected additional representations and information received” from several parties.

This included Whitburn Neighbourhood Forum, South Tyneside Environmental Protection and campaigner Bob Latimer, who spoke against the plans at the March Planning Committee.

Despite the updated report and representations, South Tyneside Council’s planning department has continued to recommend the housing plans for approval.

The council committee report states: “It is considered that on balance, the proposal provides long-term benefits which would contribute to the objective of delivering sustainable development.

“The proposal would contribute to maximising the re-use of previously developed land and would secure the redevelopment of a site in a poor and deteriorating condition, with a commitment from the applicant to deliver development including the demolition of the existing buildings on site in a timely manner.

“The proposed development of the site would contribute to the borough’s overall housing requirements, where the council has failed the housing delivery test and is unable to demonstrate a four-year housing land supply plus 20 per cent buffer.

“It is considered that the proposals would deliver an appropriate mix of housing, including eight affordable housing units on-site.

“The natural environment and other potential environmental impacts of the proposal would be acceptable subject to the suggested conditions and Section 106 Agreement, with biodiversity net gain in excess of 10 per cent being provided for and likely significant effects on nearby internationally designated ecology sites being satisfactorily mitigated.

“Furthermore, the proposals are acceptable in terms of noise, odour, contaminated land and climate change.

“In respect of flood risk and drainage, subject to the recommended conditions, it is considered that the proposals would be acceptable”.

A representation from consultee Northumbrian Water, included in the council report,  states the housing plans would have a “positive impact” in relation to surface water drainage.

Northumbrian Water also disputed the findings of an external report looking at capacity in the local sewerage system and stated that the “Hendon Sewerage Treatment Works is deemed compliant [sic] with respect to flow to full treatment”.

The water company added: “A front-end flow metering system is currently
being installed to increase the levels of accuracy around this”.

However, objectors to the housing scheme have continued to question issues around sewerage capacity and have challenged Northumbrian Water’s latest representation, and its lack of “statistical data”.

Concerns include the impact of new housing on the sewerage network, and its ability to take more flows.

The Environment Agency also said they had “no comments to make on this application as this falls outside our statutory consultation remit”.

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A decision on the plans is expected to be made by South Tyneside Council’s Planning Committee on Monday, May 20.

Any planning approval would be subject to the completion of a legal agreement, a process which allows councils to secure financial contributions from developers to help mitigate the impact of developments.

Around £29,400 is sought to help deliver ‘off-site biodiversity net gain’, as well as £12,896 to mitigate “recreational pressure and impacts” on protected nature sites.

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Even if approved by councillors in future, the planning application would still need to be referred to the Secretary of State for a final decision.

Councillors were previously told the Government referral was required because of “the amount of floorspace proposed in the Green Belt”.

The Planning Committee meeting for the Whitburn Lodge site starts at 10am at South Shields Town Hall and will be open to the public.