Plans aim to revive former commercial heart of Sunderland

High Street West, Sunderland.

High Street West, Sunderland.

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Ambitious plans are now underway to help bring one of Sunderland’s oldest neighbourhoods back to life as part of a new Heritage Action Zone.

Sunderland’s high street heritage – including Fawcett Street, High Street East and West and Church Street East – will be transformed through a new partnership project led by Historic England and Sunderland City Council.

These streets were once at the very heart of the city but declined as commercial activity moved west, leaving a legacy of key historic buildings in poor condition

Coun Mel Speding

Sunderland is one of ten Heritage Action Zones across the country and is the first place in the North East to secure this special status.

The intensive programme of research, repair and regeneration will rely on residents and businesses to get involved.

The project builds on work by Sunderland City Council and partners to revive historic Sunderland and reconnect it with the modern city centre.

The Heritage Action Zone will help people rediscover their fascinating local heritage at a time of cultural investment in the city.

The scheme will link to projects like the Tall Ships in 2018, the recently announced HLF Great Places project and the City of Culture 2021 bid.

On May 5, a public event will take place, during which people can explore the zone, with a walk around the high street. Participants will learn what it means to be a Heritage Action Zone and share their own stories about what is important to them in the area.

The walk will start from the Canny Space at 2pm. To book a place, call Historic England on (0191) 269 1255 or email: bsh.desk@historicengland.org.uk

The organisation’s North East planning director, Carol Pyrah, said: “This is about using Sunderland’s heritage as a source of local pride and a positive force for change.

“The historic environment provides those unique qualities that make places special.

“The Heritage Action Zone shines a spotlight on Sunderland’s historic places as providing great areas to live, work and visit.”

Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Secretary Mel Speding said: “We’re delighted that Sunderland is one of only 10 areas in the country to secure Heritage Action Zone status.

“These streets were once at the very heart of the city but declined as commercial activity moved west, leaving a legacy of key historic buildings in poor condition.

“This scheme provides a real opportunity to unlock the potential of this important historic area.

“Sunderland is seeing a real cultural renaissance at the moment with projects like this and the £1.25m awarded by the Great Places scheme last week to help put culture at the heart of communities.”