A year after it became one of the first places in the country to secure a Heritage Action Zone, the Chair of Historic England has commended Sunderland on the progress being made.
Sir Laurie Magnus was speaking after visiting the city with Historic England’s Commission.
During their visit, the Commission and Executive Team were given a tour of:
Phoenix Lodge in Sunderland’s East End.
This is one of the oldest surviving purpose-built masonic hall in the Country, where Historic England has been undertaking a detailed appraisal of the importance of the building.
They also saw progress on the Heritage Lottery Fund supported Canny Space.
A project by the Churches Conservation Trust that will repair and transform the redundant Holy Trinity Church into a community venue as a centre for music, storytelling and events.
They were also shown around 170-175 High Street West.
The property where Pop Recs have recently moved following the completion of urgent repair work funded by Historic England.
The Commissioners were particularly impressed by the endeavours and enthusiasm of Pop Recs, the Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust, the City Council and Historic England in tackling such a challenging project.
Speaking after his visit, Sir Laurie Magnus said: “My colleagues and I from Historic England were delighted to visit and to see examples of the fantastic work being undertaken by the City Council and local partners in Sunderland’s Heritage Action Zone.
“It was inspiring to see how some of the city’s important historic places are being refurbished and brought back to life.”
The Commissioners also presented Hudson Street Primary school with a Heritage School award for their outstanding work on the heritage school project undertaken as part of the Heritage Action Zone.
Councillor Stuart Porthouse, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Regeneration at Sunderland City Council said: “It was a huge honour to meet Sir Laurie Magnus and the Historic England Commission during their visit to the city.
“It was fantastic to be able to show them the progress we’ve made in bringing back into use buildings like 170-175 High Street West where Binns department store started out.
“This is being transformed through the Historic Streets project from near dereliction to become home to Pop Recs.
“There’s a lot more to look forward to over the next year as the project builds on this momentum.”
The Historic High Streets project began last year when the area was awarded Heritage Action Zone status.
The partnership project which is led by Historic England and Sunderland City Council aims to transform Sunderland’s high street heritage; building on previous work by the council and local partners to revive historic Sunderland and reconnect it with the modern city centre.
A number of other projects are underway including a Historic Area Assessment of Old Sunderland, by Wardell Armstrong Archaeology which is nearing completion.
This will improve understanding of the significance of Sunderland’s historic high streets and character of the wider city centre, and be a useful planning tool for managing the heritage of the area.
Detailed building assessments of Hutchinson’s Buildings (Mackie’s Corner) and the Athenaeum building on Fawcett Street have also been completed. Work is now underway to explore options for the restoration and re-use of Hutchinson’s Buildings.
A number of events have also been held over the summer to promote Old Sunderland and the Heritage Action Zone, including the Sunderland History Fair, the Tall Ships Georgian Festival and the Heritage Open Days event at Pop Recs, attracting hundreds of visitors to the area.