Bridge collapse! The rise and fall of Sunderland’s ill-fated Iconic River Wear crossing

Sunderland City Council Leader Coun. Paul Watson with a model of the bridge that is to be built over the River Wear.
Sunderland City Council Leader Coun. Paul Watson with a model of the bridge that is to be built over the River Wear.
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2003-05: Proposals for England’s tallest bridge were first announced, although plans have been on the drawing board since the 1980s.

November 2006: Fears of a “funding gap” emerge in leaked email by city regeneration official, raising concerns about the project.

Architect Stephen Spence (left) and Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson with a model of the new Iconic Wear Bridge at Sunderland Civic centre

Architect Stephen Spence (left) and Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson with a model of the new Iconic Wear Bridge at Sunderland Civic centre

September 2008: First pictures of the 180-metre-high “iconic” bridge are released, with designers hailing it “a signpost for the city”. Created by award-winning architect Stephen Spence, the crossing between Pallion and Hylton Castle, with its twisted pylon rising out of the river, is intended as a “symbol for Sunderland that will be recognised around the world”.

November 2008: Plans move a step closer after the council’s ruling Labour group decide the “iconic design” is the “best option” for the city, with a public consultation drive backing the proposals. Council leader Paul Watson said: “I think it’s what the city deserves.”

April 2010: Councillors approve plans for the bridge, which could cost up to £133million. The authority expects to contribute £32million towards the project, with the remainder from the Government and other sources.

October 2010: The Coalition Government fails to guarantee £98million funding for the project, with the plans now in a “development pool” of 22 proposals ministers view to be “good value for money” but in need of further analysis.

December 2010: Fresh hope as council leaders agree to spend £1.4million to investigate progressing with the project. The council must submit fresh documents, starting with an “expression of interest”. Cabinet members agree to continue pushing for the project.

December 2011: Department for Transport chiefs confirm a £82.5million grant that will help make the bridge project a reality. Officials say that work could begin as early as 2012, with the new crossing open to traffic as early as 2015.

January 2012: The crossing is likened to the Golden Gate Bridge by city councillors as they join together to welcome the new funding.

February 2013: Two firms pull out of the bidding to build the bridge. Industry claims that the project is to bite the dust are rejected by Sunderland City Council.

July 2013 - Sunderland City Council confirms that the landmark bridge project will now not be pursued. Instead a simplified cable-stayed design is being explored for the “New Wear Crossing.” It will be delivered with existing funding and within agreed timeframe.