Plans to breathe new life into Sunderland city centre with investment worth £500million have been backed by business leaders.
Members of Sunderland Business Partnership (SBP) believe the investment will help create a more lively city centre, which will in turn drive economy for Sunderland as a whole.
Made up of more than 50 members with a strong interest in Sunderland, the SBP was created with the aim of helping to unlock the city's potential.
Ellen Thinnesen, chair of Sunderland Business Partnership, said: “As an organisation that, only a matter of years ago, invested more than £48million on capital development including a new city centre campus, we know the transformative impact that investment can have.
"So, when we consider a combined investment of more than £500million, it’s clear that this will - as the council described - be game-changing for Sunderland."
Ms Thinnesen is also chief executive of Education Partnership North East, which comprises Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form and Northumberland College.
She added: "As a college, we want to see Sunderland further develop because that’s good for everyone. It’s good for young people in the city, it’s good for the wider community, and it’s good for business and the economy.
"We absolutely welcome this city centre investment.”
The plan has also been backed by Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID), which was set up to promote a more vibrant city centre.
Work on the city centre programme is currently underway, with full details yet to be released.
In March, proposals to create a new City Hall base for Sunderland City Council on the Vaux site were approved. There are hopes that this application will be the first step in attracting further investment from the private sector.
The council's programme of plans hopes to deliver a range of things in partnership with private investors.
*More and better city centre homes
*A stronger food and drink offer
*A new riverside crossing to better connect the Stadium of Light with the city centre
*Funding to create a cleaner and greener city
*Ongoing regeneration of historic buildings
Sharon Appleby, head of business operations at the BID, said: “Investment will make a huge difference and alongside the work we are doing to not only promote the place, but to ensure it is as clean and vibrant an environment as possible, means it will be an increasingly attractive place for people to shop, eat, drink and enjoy.”
Sunderland University, another member of the SBP, has also backed the plans, which will better-connect the city centre and Stadium Village.
The city centre vision fits into a wider programme of investment in Sunderland of more than £1.5billion, and is at the heart of a new plan, led by the council, to create a vibrant, dynamic, healthy city by 2030.