Visitors are flocking to new-look Roker seafront at Sunderland

Visitors are flocking to the new-look Roker seafront.
Visitors are flocking to the new-look Roker seafront.
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Sunderland’s seaside is all ready for a successful summer as residents and traders heap praise on regeneration work that has transformed the seafront.

Visitors and businesses operating from the newly-developed Roker seafront say they have seen increased footfall since work was completed to regenerate the area.

Malcolm Parks has a daily stroll along the seafront.

Malcolm Parks has a daily stroll along the seafront.

Improvements, which were undertaken between 2010 and 2014, have seen the area transformed, with landscaped public areas and a family play park that is proving popular year-round.

Work is still underway on the main stretch of coastal road, but is expected to be completed this month.

More than £7million has been invested in the seafront, £2million of which came from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund to redevelop the area.

The Beach House bistro, which is owned and operated by 1879 Events Management, is one of a number of traders to open on the seafront since work was completed in the area. The café – at Marine Walk – opened in July 2014, and has seen footfall and business steadily increase over the last few months.

The investment in the seafront has been great to see, especially as we are investing in our venues at the same time.

Tavistock boss Mark Hird

Gary Hutchinson, director at 1879 Events Management, said: “The work undertaken at the seafront has transformed the place, and The Beach House is one of a number of businesses that I am sure are benefitting from the increased number of visitors, both local and further afield, in the area as a result.

“We have been seeing record numbers over the past few months, and we expect that upward trend to continue as the summer gets in full swing.

“The investment in the area really is paying dividends and the seafront is becoming an increasingly vibrant, bustling part of the city.”

The benefits of seafront redevelopments have also extended beyond the area closest to the new boulevard.

Some of the artwork offers some unusual views.

Some of the artwork offers some unusual views.

Tavistock Hospitality, which runs The Roker Hotel, The Italian Farmhouse, newly-opened Poetic License and tea room Let There Be Crumbs, has seen a significant increase in business over the last few months.

Mark Hird, managing director of Tavistock Hospitality, said: “The investment in the seafront has been great to see, especially as we are investing in our venues at the same time.

“Tavistock Hospitality has committed more than £3million to a phased redevelopment of the venue, which has seen us transform our restaurants and bars.

“We’ll soon be home to the first distillery in Sunderland, a great addition to the city’s offer, and we are planning to extend our accommodation, with 30 new boutique rooms and a spa planned.”

He added: “Teamed with the investment that has been made by Sunderland City Council, I really do believe the seafront can only become a more vibrant, attractive part of the city that draws people from further afield.”

Work got started on the seafront in 2010, and is nearing completion with the £1.35million restoration of the 110-year-old Grade II listed Roker Pier, ongoing.

Redevelopment at the seafront is just one part of almost £1billion of projects – public and private investment - expected to be completed in the city by 2024.

Councillor John Kelly, the council’s cabinet member for public health, wellness and culture, said: “Sunderland is fortunate to be a city by the sea – its fantastic position is a real asset to the area. The work undertaken at Roker has breathed new life into the seafront, and beyond the beautiful beaches, we now have a great offer, with shops, cafes, bars and restaurants aplenty.

“It is the perfect place for families to enjoy over the summer months. We are delighted that people and businesses are seeing the value that the redevelopment is bringing to the area.”

For more info about The Beach House call (0191) 565 9473 or visit www.facebook.com/thebeachhousesunderland or www.1879events.com, with more details about where to visit in Sunderland available via www.seeitdoitsunderland.co.uk.

Elizabeth and Frank Kelly taking a break down at Roker.

Elizabeth and Frank Kelly taking a break down at Roker.

Visitors and traders have expressed delight at the work.

Sue Applegarth, 61, has lived in Sunderland all of her life and visits Roker beach every morning with her West Highland Terrier, Hamish.

She said: “I love coming down here in the mornings.

“It’s always peaceful and that means it’s easy for me to keep Hamish under control.

“I’ve brought friends here and they’ve commented on how lovely the area is now. I think especially the new plants and landscaping has really made a difference.”

Malcolm Parks, 68, from Seaburn, has been visiting the beach for the past 10 years for a daily stroll.

He said: “The regeneration work has really made a difference.

“I often see new faces coming to the beach now. I love it here because it’s so quiet and peaceful; it’s almost like Sunderland’s hidden gem of tranquillity.
“The regeneration work is great news for the area as more people will be able to really enjoy their time here.”

Frank Kelly, 71, and Elizabeth Kelly, 70, from Castletown, regularly cycle or walk down to the seafront.

Frank said: “We’ve been cycling to the beach for a few years now and seeing the regeneration work has been fantastic.

“It’s really made a difference.

“We’ve seen a lot more people coming to the beach with their dogs or even for a stroll, and it’s clearly making a big difference for businesses here.”

Elizabeth said: “The work has made Roker beach such a lovely place to sit and enjoy and it’s fantastic that it’s cyclist friendly.

“A lot of places now are cramped or just too busy for cyclists to enjoy, so it’s great that we can still bring our bikes here and enjoy the lovely views of the pier.”

Sue Parkin, 51, is the owner of Sue’s Café at Roker Beach.

She said that the regeneration work has been fantastic for the area.

“I’ve had the café here for 11 years now and we’ve been through some difficult times with it,” she added.

“But thanks to the regeneration work we’re seeing a real increase in visitors to the beach and into our café.

“We sponsored the Dame Dorothy School to come down and plant some of the flowers, and for a lot of the children it was the first time they had ever gardened as many live in nearby flats that have no gardens.

“We see a lot more families down here now and a lot of carers bring people living with dementia to the beach because it’s so tranquil.”

Sue’s husband, Tom Parkin, is the chairman of the Sunderland Seafront Trade Association and worked closely with the council on the regeneration plans.

Sue said: “Tom helped to relay all of the concerns traders at the seafront had, and the council really listened to us and to the public about what they wanted.

“I think the final result is fantastic and really works for everyone.”

Sue Parkin outside her cafe.

Sue Parkin outside her cafe.

Sue Applegarth walks Hamish along the seafront.

Sue Applegarth walks Hamish along the seafront.

The front is a popular congregating place for dog owners.

The front is a popular congregating place for dog owners.