A high street fasion retailer says it is hoping to open the doors to its new city centre store by next autumn.
Next has said it has no fixed date yet, but aims to be welcoming customers to its larger shop on the former Crowtree Leisure Centre site in Sunderland later next year.
The development, which is expected to bring a homes and gardens outlet to the expansion of The Bridges, will see it move from a 7,177sq ft store inside the complex to one covering 20,000sq ft.
The two-storey replacement is expected to bring a jobs boost as well as increased footfall to the centre.
The company is expected to confirm how many new positions will be created once construction is under way and as its launch date approaches.
It has said building the new unit would be its best option for satisfying its desire to move to a bigger space in Sunderland.
The location is a prime spot for expanding the retail and leisure, so is likely to attract interest from investors and developers.Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association
A report to councillors, who took a vote on the proposals, “Due to the location of the centre, being surrounded on the north, east and southern sides by smaller high street’ retail units there is limited opportunity to expand the existing shopping centre in those locations to provide a sufficiently large format store for the requirements of Next.”
The council has since announced it is discussing a major revamp which could result in new bars, restaurants, a hotel and more shops in a project which will also aim to protect the area’s heritage.
The area covers Sunderland Empire, High Street West, Keel Square and Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, with museums, galleries and a history centre also suggested.
A plan for a four-star 120 room Holiday Inn has already been submitted for a section of Keel Square.
Sunderland City Council’s development control (Sunderland South) sub-committee granted approval of the Next plans after hearing the scheme had the backing of other traders.
Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association has said the plot is a “key site” and while the closure and demolition of the leisure centre was a loss to the area, there is a need to look to the future.
It added: “The location is a prime spot for expanding the retail and leisure, so is likely to attract interest from investors and developers.”
However, the design and location of the new shop has come in for criticism, with Sunderland Civic Society noting it will not allow for the future development of the land between the proposed store and High Street West.