First glimpse of Sunderland’s shopping future – The Bridges unveils plans for Crowtree site

Artist's impression of the new Bridges extension.

Artist's impression of the new Bridges extension.

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Here it is – a first glimpse of the future of Sunderland’s The Bridges shopping centre.

Shoppers will get a first look at the expansion plans this weekend, with a consultation exhibition of the proposed development going on display in the centre.

This is a very exciting time for the Bridges and we hope as many people as possible will come and view the plans and let us know their thoughts.

Andy Bradley

The new scheme, on the former Crowtree Leisure Centre site, includes a new large store for an as-yet-unnamed leading retailer next to the centre, and will provide improved public spaces and new parking facilities.

As part of the planning process, local people are being given the opportunity to share their views, and an informal exhibition showcasing the plans will be on view on Saturday, from 10am to 4.30pm, and on Sunday, from 11.30am to 4pm.

Visitors to the exhibition, in Central Square at The Bridges, will be invited to give their feedback, or alternatively, they can view the plans and give their feedback online at www.thebridges-shopping.com from Oct 17.

People have until Sunday, November 2, to provide any feedback.

“This is a very exciting time for The Bridges,” said centre director Andy Bradley. “And we hope as many people as possible will come and view the plans and let us know their thoughts.”

An extension to the centre has been in the pipeline since council chiefs announced plans to demolish the old Crowtree Leisure Centre in February 2013.

The plan was to demolish the High Street West end of the building from the dividing walkway north, with only the sections above the Crowtree Road Bridges extension retained, opening up the area between the back of the building and Sunderland Minster.

A council report outlining the plans said the move was critical to the city’s economy: “The future prosperity and growth of the city centre is in part dependent on the availability of development sites, that will meet the modern-day requirements of investors and developers.

“It is important sites are readily available and free from planning and development risk, that deter development interest.”

Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association threw its weight behind the plans.

“The Crowtree site is a key location with great potential to support the growth of the city centre,” said spokesman Giles McCourt.

“While the decline and subsequent closure of Crowtree was a great loss to the city centre, we must move with the times and look to the future. Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association fully supports the council’s decision to redevelop the site.

“The location is a prime spot for expanding the retail and leisure, so is likely to attract interest from investors and developers.”