Controversial YHA development to go ahead

This report has been amended, following a request from Cllr Tom Woodwark who wished to point out that while he did not lodge an objection to the proposal, he did not support it.

Contentious plans to convert the former youth hostel on Jesmond Road into multiple-occupancy flats have been approved in controversial circumstances.

Last week the council’s planning committee voted by seven to two against the proposal, which came before councillors for the second time, following its rejection in November due to concerns around noise and traffic.

But after councillors seemed to have knocked it back again, council planning officers cleared the meeting room and gave the committee emergency legal advice. The development was then waved through by eight votes to four.

JesmondLocal understands officers advised the committee that the decision would go to appeal if the plans were rejected again and as a result the council would risk facing crippling legal costs if defeated.

The situation raises questions about the council’s ability to stand up to developers, with reduced funding and rising costs squeezing the authority’s financial wiggle-room. Newcastle has had to shed £30 million from its budget for this financial year.

Baskeys Accommodation, which owns the property, put forward a revised set of plans in January, with impact assessments around noise and traffic in the area.

Its transport statement concluded: “There are no reasons on highways or transport grounds why the development Site (sic) should not be granted planning permission for 10 residential units.”

This failed to appease some of the plans’ critics however. South Jesmond councillor David Hardman described the parking survey used as “inflated,” saying it covered too wide an area to reflect properly the impact on the immediate locality.

Cllr Chris Boyle also lodged an objection to the revised application.

The conversion into flats will end any hope of the former Youth Hostel Association (YHA) building being returned to its former use.

Cllr Hardman lamented the loss of the YHA facility, describing it as “a unique service” to both Jesmond and Newcastle.

Baskeys Accommodation says in its planning statement there are comparable services in other parts of the city, including hostels and cheap hotels in central Newcastle and on Westgate Road.