SUNDERLAND’S theatre quarter has been left in the dark this Christmas, says a city businessman.
Lee Robson reckons the festive lights display in the stretch of High Street West can’t hold a candle to the rest of the city centre.
Lee, who runs Westminster bar next to the Empire theatre, believes the city is missing out on a major opportunity to sell itself to people coming to this year’s panto, which starts next week.
He said: “We are going to have thousands of people coming in very soon and there are no decorations to speak of.
“I have invested £300,000 in this part of town in the last six months and the council don’t bother about us – it’s infuriating.
“The spending should be spread equally through the city centre.”
Businesses were already struggling as a result of the development work going on in the surrounding area.
He added: “We are surrounded at the moment.
“We have got the pulling down of the block that housed Brogan’s, the leisure centre, the new road and the new hotel at the bottom of Chester Road – that’s four sites surrounding us.”
But Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said the development work was part of the problem, and had made it difficult to do much around the Empire this year.
He said: “A sum of £45,000 has been agreed for this year’s city centre Christmas lights, and the illuminations and work around them have been delivered on behalf of the city by Sunderland Live and Aurora Street Lighting.
“There is ongoing regeneration work close to the former Crowtree Leisure Centre, with the creation of the new St Mary’s Way and public square at the western end of the High Street.
“While works around this development are progressing, it has unfortunately limited some of the scope for additional lights in the area.
“As we look to festive and Christmas lights in the future, we are also exploring options with business contributions.”