New Sunderland department store planned for The Bridges extension at Crowtree site?

Plans for a multi-million extension to The Bridges have gone on display at the centre, as part of a public consultation excercise.

Plans for a multi-million extension to The Bridges have gone on display at the centre, as part of a public consultation excercise.

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The mystery retailer earmarked to move into the proposed multi-million pound extension of The Bridges shopping centre in 2017 could be revealed in time of Christmas.

Centre director Andy Bradley told the Echo that a ‘major retailer’ had signed on the dotted line, adding: “We would hope to reveal who it is before Christmas.”

Centre Manager at The Bridges, Andy Bradley

Centre Manager at The Bridges, Andy Bradley

Mr Bradley could not give the exact cost of the project, but said it was in the millions.

Although bosses remain tight-lipped about who this major retailer is, the plans, on public display in the centre’s Central Square until Sunday, suggest that it may be a department store.

The exhibition showcases plans to fill the space left by the demolition of the Crowtree Leisure Centre, and will link to the centre via the entrance adjacent to Starbucks.

Floor plans show the two storey building – which also features an underground carpark – divided into sections for homeware, ladies’ wear, children’s sections and more.

We’ve got enough B-grade shops here. What we do need is the likes of John Lewis, Fenwick’s or House of Fraser. We’ve got Debenhams, but there is no competition

Shopper John Carragher, 67

The majority of those viewing the plans on Saturday, said they hoped for an upmarket department store, like John Lewis, House of Fraser or Fenwick’s.

“We are extending The Bridges retail offer overall,” Mr Bradley said. “We are bringing in a new retailer on the former leisure centre site.

“There has been huge interest and the fact is that most people in Sunderland are excited about any regeneration plans in the city.

“We have a very loyal shopper, and adding to the retail offer can only be good for the shopper in the city.”

John Carragher, 67, from Washington.

John Carragher, 67, from Washington.

The exhibition is part of a public consultation prior to a planning application being made.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Mr Bradley said. “The plans are very sympathetic to the existing environment. There has been a lot of effort put in to get this right, between the local authority and The Bridges to complement the regeneration work already undertaken in Keel Sqaure and St Mary’s Way. This building will complement that.”

Shopper John Carragher, 67, who was at the centre looking at the plans on Saturday, said he was doubtful that the extension would be big enough to attract the sort of retailer you would expect at the Metrocentre or in Newcastle

Mr Carragher, who lives in Washington, said: “We’ve got enough B-grade shops here. What we do need is the likes of John Lewis, Fenwick’s or House of Fraser. “We’ve got Debenhams, but there is no competition.

Plans for a multi-million extension to The Bridges have gone on display at the centre, as part of a public consultation excercise.

Plans for a multi-million extension to The Bridges have gone on display at the centre, as part of a public consultation excercise.

“We have shops that are being downgraded as opposed to being a city centre with everything available. When I go into Boots or M&S, I get told that they don’t have what I want and I have to go to larger stores in Newcastle or the Metrocentre.

“We used to have Binns, it was known across the North east, but we lost it after the Metrocentre was built. They are telling people to come and shop in Sunderland, but we don’t have any A-grade stores.”

The plans are also available online at www.thebridges-shopping.com and feedback can bee submitted until November 2.