Retail park dream moves step closer

Sundelalnd Council Leader Counc. Paul Watson on the site of the new Tesco, Supermarket on the Roker Retail Park.

Sundelalnd Council Leader Counc. Paul Watson on the site of the new Tesco, Supermarket on the Roker Retail Park.

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MULTIMILLION-POUND plans to transform a struggling shopping centre are inching closer to becoming reality.

The development of Roker Retail Park was key to the deal which saw the old Vaux site, which has remained derelict since the brewery was flattened, finally transferred into Sunderland Council control last week.

Outline permission for the Tesco project on the retail park – which will create 800 jobs – was granted in October, and government approval soon followed.

Now, the planning application to detail the site’s transformation has been submitted by Tesco – for the final approval of matters which were “reserved” by the original permission.

It marks another step on the road for the scheme, which was originally revealed in February 2008.

The revamped retail centre would be anchored by a giant supermaket, with the bowling alley – which is still open for the time being – and former Reg Vardy car dealership bulldozed to make way.

Two of the current buildings will remain and four smaller units will be built.

The scheme will include 900 car parking spaces, electric vehicle charging points, and a major overhaul of the traffic system around the Wheatsheaf area – to be paid for by Tesco.

While the last planning papers are in the process of being agreed upon, negotiations are ongoing to assemble all the pieces of the land for the revamp to go ahead.

Most of the site is owned by Mountview Securities, but the council wants existing businesses – MacDonald’s, Farm Foods and Blockbuster – to give up their ownership interest there to allow for “comprehensive” redevelopment.

If that does not happen, the authority has agreed to its powers under the Town and Country Planning Act, to purchase the land compulsorily.

Council leader Paul Watson has labelled the scheme “massive”.

He said: “This is the single most significant thing that has happened to Monkwearmouth, to regenerate a whole area of the city in one fell swoop.”