Scared off? Sunderland’s landmark bridge architect Stephen Spence reveals his biggest regret over project axe

Architect Stephen Spence (left) and Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson with a model of the new Iconic Wear Bridge at Sunderland Civic centre
Architect Stephen Spence (left) and Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson with a model of the new Iconic Wear Bridge at Sunderland Civic centre
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“I AM from the area, my parents still live in the area and this was my opportunity to do something positive for Sunderland.”

Architect Stephen Spence is today coming to terms with the fact that the landmark bridge plan which has been a part of his life for the best part of a decade is no more.

“It was 2005 when we won the competition,” he said.

“In the long term, that is my biggest regret. There will still be a bridge there – it just won’t be my bridge.”

The team behind the plan had done everything possible to make it a reality on budget, but had perhaps gone into too much detail.

“We had it costed thoroughly all the way through – it has been on budget,” he said. “We did a very, very detailed statement. We wanted to be confident the building was buildable and for what we thought was the right cost. Maybe it scared them off – it did not give them enough margin of opportunity.”

Exactly how far outside the budget the tenders had fallen was unclear.

“We have not seen the tenders ourselves. All we have been told is it was substantially over budget, but we don’t have the figures,” he said.

“Bridges such as this last 120 years – they are for the next two or three generations.

“We have always said this was a confident, forward-looking bridge, something that would have put Sunderland on the map in terms of a new statement, a new symbol.

“I know all the arguments, I know about the economy but this was the opportunity to actually get it built and then, in 10 years’ time, people probably would have said ‘This is something we are proud of and we did something that left a mark.’

“The council has done a fantastic job and I understand their perspective, that they don’t want to lose that funding.

“They need a crossing to kickstart the regeneration of that area.”