Could homes finally be built on Sunderland land left empty for a decade?

Coun Michael Dixon on vacant land in Pennywell
Coun Michael Dixon on vacant land in Pennywell
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A large area of vacant land in Sunderland could soon become a new housing estate more than a decade after previous homes were demolished.

The site, off Chester Road, in Pennywell, has been empty for around 10 years.

New housing plans are on the agenda for vacant land in Pennywell.

New housing plans are on the agenda for vacant land in Pennywell.

But now discussions about a possible joint venture between social housing provider Gentoo and Sunderland City Council have begun.

Deputy leader of Sunderland Conservatives and St Michael’s Ward Coun Michael Dixon had hoped to bring the issue up at a recent council meeting.

Instead, he received a written response from council leader Paul Watson, saying: “Discussions are on-going with Gentoo about bringing the Chester Road site forward by way of a joint venture arrangement and a team of council officers are working with Gentoo on the master planning of this site.”

Coun Dixon said: “As someone who has lifelong interest in housing, the total lack of activity on this land has been very disappointing and I would imagine many people feel the same.

It sounds like a start, but I just hope it is not a false dawn because it is high time progress was made here

Coun Michael Dixon

“First post-war council housing demolished, next tenants moved on, then nothing built in their place.

“Much-needed council tax receipts year-on-year for essentials services to benefit the city have been lost and a great site for the excellent properties Gentoo build as say starter homes to either rent or buy, just grassed over.

“We have seen success stories in Sunderland where Gentoo has revitalised housing standards, but the history of this site is a sad one, a clear example of what not to do as a social housing company.

“It is all very well for Gentoo to be building nice houses in places like Guisborough, Wylam and Gosforth, for example, but this land in Sunderland should have been a priority for action in the last ten years.

Coun Michael Dixon approves of new housing plans on Pennywell vacant land.

Coun Michael Dixon approves of new housing plans on Pennywell vacant land.

“In several meetings that myself and my colleague Coun Peter Wood have recently attended with senior officers, it is encouraging to note that there is now, at council level, a much greater urgency in the involvement and planning of the house-building process.

“Hopefully the days when the council were mere onlookers as far as Gentoo housing policy in the city was concerned are over.

“So I welcome the answer I received here.

“It sounds like a start, but I just hope it is not a false dawn because it is high time progress was made here.”

Ian Porter, Gentoo’s executive director of asset and investment, said: “We are in discussions with Sunderland City Council over a joint venture arrangement to bring forward development on the Chester Road site in Pennywell.

“We continue to work closely with the city council on strategic master planning for housing across the city as we have done on all of our regeneration sites, including the four current live sites at Doxford Park, Houghton-le-Spring, Downhill and Pennywell, bringing 350 new homes for sale and for rent to Sunderland.”

Coun Graeme Miller, portfolio holder for health, housing and adult services, said: “The city council has been exploring options for bringing the Chester Road site forward and there will be further updates in due course.”