Broken dreams and white elephants – Sunderland’s scrapped projects and disappointments

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A DECISION to scrap the building of an iconic bridge across the Wear is the latest in a series of doomed high-profile projects. CRAIG THOMPSON looks back at other schemes which never got off the ground.


SCRAPPED: Sunderland's proposed iconic bridge

SCRAPPED: Sunderland's proposed iconic bridge

Proposal: The Roker Horn

A giant red, white and black horn, touted as the biggest artwork in the North East after the Angel of the North, was planned for the city.

Promised to be 40ft long and five metres high, the horn was going to stand on legs at Monkwearmouth Metro Station.

The length of four double-decker buses, money for the project was to be provided by Sunderland AFC and Nexus, as well as National Lottery grants.

The horn was scheduled to relay commentaries and highlights from home matches at the Stadium of Light.

The cone would also blast out the roar of the crowd each time a Metro pulled into the station carrying football supporters.

It was estimated the horn, which was to be decked out in SAFC colours, would cost £220,000.

At the time, Sunderland Council said they believed the artwork would “put a smile on people’s faces”.

Outcome: Scrapped


Proposal: Red and White Brick Road

A bid to build a red and white footpath from the then-proposed Metro Station to the Stadium of Light was suggested.

The coloured road was intended to guide fans, much like Dorothy was guided by the Yellow Brick Road in the Wizard of Oz, to the Stadium on match days. But the scheme never took off and fans found their way to the ground perfectly well on the normal footpath.

Outcome: Scrapped


Proposal: Super-Casino

Creating up to 2,000 jobs, a Las-Vegas style super-casino was touted for land next to the Stadium of Light.

The brainchild of US multimillionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands company, which owned the Venetian Hotel and gaming complex in the Nevada resort, the casino aimed to be the first of its kind in the North.

It was hoped the venue would attract gamblers from across the country and would pull in Wearsiders when the football club was playing away.

The plans, worth millions of pounds to the city, were welcomed by Sunderland Council.

Then leader, Coun Bob Symonds, said: “It’s important for the region.

“It will be a visitor attraction and create jobs and I think Sunderland would have as good a chance as any location.”

Outcome: Scrapped


Proposal: Adelaide restaurant/museum

Sunderland’s long-running saga to save the historic City of Adelaide ship took a new twist when plans were revealed to turn it into an upside-down leisure complex.

The proposals, put forward by marine engineers, was to flip the vessel and transform the hull into an eye-catching visitor attraction and restaurant.

Condemned as “undignified” by those hoping to restore the Adelaide to its former glory, both Sunderland and Glasgow were touted as possible new homes for the converted ship.

Outcome: Scrapped


Proposal: Spirit of Sunderland

Soaring 33 storeys high, this “skyscraper” was going to be the tallest building in the North.

To be built in Holmeside, the tower promised to be an “icon and a symbol of Sunderland”. Shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and 150 apartments were to be housed in the tower which would also create 1,800 new jobs. A cocktail bar would have “sweeping views” of the city and be homed on the 24th floor and would, according to developers, be “an essential stop for anyone visiting the North East”.

According to the now defunct Sunderland arc, the building would “signify a confidence and prosperity that could put Sunderland on the international map”.

Compared to the Gherkin in London, Spirit of Sunderland would encourage people to live in the city centre and create a 24-hour economy for the city.

Outcome: Scrapped


Proposal: Indoor ski centre

The multimillion pound development promised to create a giant indoor ski centre – with real snow.

It was to be housed in a giant sporting venue which would also include an ice-rink, shops, bars and restaurants.

A first for the North East, it would have been the only facility of its kind between Leeds and Glasgow.

Sunderland arc, which was working with Sunderland City Council on the proposals, said the centre would position Sunderland as a “major sporting venue for the region”.

The ski slope was to be homed on land between Hay Street and St Peter’s Metro station, and pledged to boost the “city as a visitor destination”.

Outcome: Scrapped


Scrapping of plans for iconic bridge

Proposals for England’s tallest bridge were first announced around 2003, although plans have been on the drawing board since the 1980s.

By 2006 there were fears of a “funding gap” emerging.

But in 2008, the first images of the 180-metre-high “iconic” bridge were 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, was intended as a “symbol for Sunderland that will be recognised around the world”.

In April 2010, councillors approved plans for the crossing, likened to San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge, which would cost up to £133million.

But last week Sunderland Council confirmed the bridge project will now not be pursued. Instead a simplified cable-stayed design is being explored.

Those that made it – almost:


Project: Seaburn fountain

The fountain, dubbed the Iron Dandelion, stopped flowing water not long after it was built.

Dogged by problems, including yobs pouring dye into the water, mineral deposits clogging the pipes and strong winds snapping the head off in 1991, it was quickly deemed an eyesore.

Despite pleas for its removal, the 40ft fountain, which cost £198.000, remained in place.

Fifteen years later, after much grumbling, it was finally removed.


Project: Ambit

The 22-tonne floating artwork was dogged with problems almost as soon as it was unveiled in the Wear.

The sculpture’s lights were dimmed by a build-up of silt, then extinguished altogether when a timer failed. Ambit had been in the water for just five months when corrosion caused one of its connecting bolts to break, and the sculpture became a target for vandals who threw breeze blocks at it and cut power cables. It was later removed from the water.

Inspired by the Austin shipyards pontoon which was used to raise and lower ships into the Wear, the artwork received massive criticism from the Wearside public and the Echo later revealed how it had been left in an old storage unit.

The success stories:

Herrington Country Park: A former pit site reclaimed and revamped into one of the city’s biggest attractions.

It is now used for concerts, theatrical performances, the Sunderland Festival, the North East’s biggest funfair and an array of fun-runs and other sporting events.

The Aquatic Centre: Officially opened in 2008, the indoor sports complex next to the Stadium of Light houses the only full Olympic-standard pool situated between Glasgow and Leeds. On June 16, 2012, the city scored a major coup when the Olympic torch was carried through the centre as part of the Olympics torch relay.

The Stadium of Light: Not only home to a Premier League team, but now a world-leader in hosting pop concerts by some of the biggest names in the music industry.

The stadium has played a key role in boosting the city’s economy by millions of pounds every year.