Sunderland city centre revamp can start

The exterior of The Bridges Shopping centre in Market Square, Sunderland
The exterior of The Bridges Shopping centre in Market Square, Sunderland
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WORK can now begin to revamp Sunderland’s Market Square, pictured, after council chiefs approved a £574,000 building contract.

Bardon Construction has been appointed to carry out improvements in what is one of the main focal points of the city centre. The scheme will start next month.

Sunderland City Council earmarked £1.04million for the overall project at the beginning of last year, and since then the Market Square project team has been working up detailed designs.

Senior councillors approved awarding the main contract to Bardon at a meeting of the council’s ruling cabinet.

Bryan Charlton, the senior councillor responsible for making Sunderland a more prosperous city, said in his report to cabinet: “The Market Square public realm improvements project is identified in the (city’s) Strategic Investment Plan as a key element of the regeneration of the city centre.”

There are four main elements to the Market Square project:

* New granite paving in Union Street North, the Market Square and Union Street South.

* “Bespoke” cast iron plates for new drainage, power supply points for events, feature ground lighting and fixings for moveable street furniture.

* New tree planting, litter bins, bollards and street lighting.

* New seating.

Lighting and power supply units have already been bought from the council’s street lighting contractors, Aurora, who will be responsible for their maintenance.

The announcement of a start date and contractor for the work comes after plans were approved for a £15million extension to The Bridges shopping centre to create a new three-storey Primark store in High Street West.

Land Securities, which owns The Bridges, also announced it would carry out improvement work at its entrance to Market Square.

The council hopes its own Market Square project will boost the number of visits to the city centre and improve Wearsiders’ perceptions of the area. Last month, the Echo reported how new figures showed one in five shops now stand empty in Sunderland city centre.

Opposition councillors called for more and better-targeted action to improve the area, with one describing the state of the core shopping area as “atrocious”.

Council chiefs say the Market Square revamp will improve the environment for pedestrians, make the area more suitable for events, and change people’s ideas about the cleanliness of the area.

Sunderland Tories, however, tried to divert funding from the project into fixing potholes and improving roads instead.

At last week’s budget meeting, Tory leader Tony Morrissey suggested more than £800,000 from the Market Square pot would be better spent on resurfacing some of the city’s worst-hit roads.

The proposal was voted down by Labour councillors.