Sunderland business leaders have welcomed an announcement of more than £0.5billion of investment into the city centre.

A city business group, that has members from across Wearside and beyond, has backed plans for £500million of investment, that will breathe new life into the heart of Sunderland.

Members of Sunderland Business Partnership (SBP) believe the investment will stimulate a more vibrant city centre, that will become an economic driver for the whole city.

The SBP collective has more than 50 members from, and with a strong interest in Sunderland.

Ellen Thinnesen, chair of Sunderland Business Partnership and chief executive of Education Partnership North East, which comprises Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College, said: “As an organisation that, only a matter of years ago, invested more than £48m on capital development including a new city centre campus, we know the transformative impact that investment can have.

“So, when we consider a combined investment of more than £500m, it’s clear that this will – as the council described – be game-changing for Sunderland.

“As a college, we want to see Sunderland further develop because that’s good for everyone.

“It’s good for young people in the city, it’s good for the wider community, and it’s good for business and the economy. We absolutely welcome this city centre investment.”

The plan has also been backed by Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID), which was set up to promote a more vibrant city centre.

Sharon Appleby, head of business operations at the BID, said: “The city centre plans are hugely positive for Sunderland.

“Investment will make a huge difference and alongside the work we are doing to not only promote the place, but to ensure it is as clean and vibrant an environment as possible, means it will be an increasingly attractive place for people to shop, eat, drink and enjoy.”

Spearheaded by Sunderland City Council, the emerging city centre vision will build on the momentum of VAUX and transform the heart of the city into a place that civic bosses say will become the ‘economic and cultural driver’ that Sunderland deserves.

Sunderland Business Partnership

With the council’s City Hall approved by Cabinet, the emerging city centre vision outlines how council investment will act as a catalyst to attract private sector investment.

It is expected that the total council investment in the city centre in the 15-year period to 2030 will be eclipsed by private sector investment of close to £300m, with the local authority’s own spending on the city stimulating market confidence to attract businesses and investors.

Though full details of the city centre vision are yet to be released, the council is working up a programme of plans that it hopes to deliver with private sector investors, covering:

  • More and better homes in the city centre, with new housing planned for the Vaux site
  • A stronger food and drink offer to enjoy, as well as activity-based businesses providing activities to complement the retail offer, with more details expected to follow within weeks
  • A new riverside crossing to better connect the Stadium to the city centre, an improved railway station on the current site, improved road links into the city delivered as part of Northern Way road realignment, and better linkage between the city centre and the riverside
  • A cleaner city, with an additional £460,000 funding already committed to frontline services to create a cleaner, greener city
  • The ongoing regeneration of historic buildings in the Heritage Action Zone along Fawcett Street, High Street West and High Street East.

Another of SBP’s members, the University of Sunderland, has also backed the plans, which will better-connect the city centre and Stadium Village, with a footbridge among the ideas being mooted.

Steve Knight, Chief Operating Officer at the University of Sunderland, said: “We welcome these plans, which are great news for Sunderland and its business community.

“As a University we contribute £244 million to Sunderland’s economy and support over 4,000 jobs – a transformed city centre can only increase this.

“We know that our students want access to a modern, vibrant and welcoming city centre that echoes the quality of their on-campus experience.

“These plans will support our recruitment efforts and encourage students and staff to take advantage of the increasingly attractive offer, right on their doorstep.”

Tony Davison, managing director of Sunderland AFC, echoed Steve’s comments. He added: “The city centre vision has the potential to transform the entire feel of Sunderland city centre and will provide a huge shot in the arm to local businesses.

“We’ve met with representatives from Sunderland City Council on a number of occasions since we came to the club last year and they’ve been extremely welcoming and open to hearing our feedback on the city vision.

“The construction of the footbridge in particular will have a huge impact on us as a club.

“It will make it easier for fans to get to and from the Stadium of Light, improving the matchday experience and bringing us closer to local businesses. It’s a very exciting time for the city.”

The city centre vision fits into a wider city programme of investment of more than £1.5bn, and is at the heart of a new plan, led by the city council, to create a vibrant, dynamic, healthy city by 2030.

To find out more about Sunderland Business Group and how to join, visit www.sunderlandbp.co.uk.

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