'Imagine if we get the like of Kit Harington or Hugh Grant coming to Sunderland' - how massive movie studio plan could transform city's economic future
Plans to create a massive new complex of film and TV studios on the banks of the Wear could revolutionise Sunderland’s economy, says a city-born expert.
FulwellCain Studios, a joint venture between global entertainment company Fulwell 73 and investment firm Cain International, has announced plans for Crown Works Studios on land stretching up from Pallion Shipyard to left and right of the Northern Spire on the Pallion side.
The joint venture will see the development of a 1.68m sq ft film industry hub at Pallion, with 20 premium sound stages suitable for major feature film and high end TV productions.
The project will be in addition to the already-announced Shipyard Studios, to create an underwater studio at Pallion Shipyard.
Paul Swinney, of economic thinktank Centre for Cities, said the move could be a massive step to addressing a shortage of highly-skilled jobs in the city
“If it goes ahead, I think it will be great,” he said.
“The problem with Sunderland is it hasn’t redeveloped its economy since the shipyards and mines closed.
“What we have done is to replace well-paid but low skilled jobs with more of the same – we have swapped the mines for call centres
‘Imagine if we get the like of Kit Harington or Hugh Grant coming to Sunderland’
“This type of development would male Sunderland much more successful in the next 40 years that it has been for the past 40 years.
“They have obviously got all their ducks in a row with Sunderland, Fulwell 73 and Cain,” said Paul.
The project would also provide a major boost for other projects currently under way, such as the Sheepfolds Stables redevelopment: “Imagine if we get the like of Kit Harington or Hugh Grant coming to Sunderland - they will have money to spend.”
The challenge would be funding the project, with the team having said Government support would be needed
The scheme – on the former Coles Cranes Crown Works site - will be delivered in three phases, with work set to start in this year and the final phase to complete by 2027.
The studios, which are subject to planning processes, will meet meeting the growing demand for studio space in the UK.
‘A landmark moment for the city’
Upon completion, the project could generate £336million for the local economy every year, and creating jobs and contract opportunities for local businesses spanning a vast range of disciplines.
Civic and business leaders were quick to welcome the news.
MP Julie Elliott, whose Sunderland Central constituency covers the site, called the announcement ‘a landmark moment for the city’.
“It is a clear show of confidence in the region and its people, and it will play a vital part in the future of Sunderland, placing itself on the banks of the Wear, that form some of the foundations of the city we live in today,” she said.
“These plans will bring transformational change to the local and regional economy on an unprecedented scale.
“I have worked closely with many people to support and champion the huge opportunity this investment will bring to our city. I can't wait to see it come to fruition once the planning process has been completed.
“It really is a great time to live and work in Sunderland, and this announcement shows that the city has a strong future, leading the way in arts and culture, well on its way to becoming a European hub for filmmaking.”
Alison Gwynn, Chief Executive of North East Screen said: “Fulwell’s studio announcement is a world class game changer and builds on the North East’s vision for growing the screen industry.
‘A phenomenal opportunity for the people of the North East’
“We fully support their ambition, and we will work closely with them to build the skills and infrastructure required, supporting both crew and local businesses to become an important part of the supply chain needed to serve the productions made there.
“Their studio will be a global player and will need our regional crew workforce, and the highly experienced world class talent from the region, who had to leave for career progression, to come home.
“We will also need to develop a new generation of industry-ready entrants, and career changers who can step across in technical and craft areas from other industries.
“This is a phenomenal opportunity for the people of the North East.”
Sharon Appleby, chief executive of Sunderland BID, said: “A development of this scale, just minutes from the city centre, represents a game-changing opportunity for Sunderland.
“Thousands of people will work at Crown Works Studios, providing a boost to footfall and spend in the heart of our city.
A new Nissan
“And the wider economic impact of more high-value jobs in Sunderland will have a profound long term effect on the shape of the city, making it an ever-more attractive place for retail, food and drink and leisure operators to set up.
“It’s a huge announcement for Sunderland and the North East.”
Pallion Lib Dem Martin Haswell added: “The prospect of Pallion being home one of the biggest film and TV studio complexes in Europe is absolutely mindblowing.
“This development could be a game-changer for Sunderland’s economy in the same way that Nissan was in the 80s, putting our community on the map and providing a huge number of job opportunities for local people in the film and TV production industry.”
“I look forward to these ambitious plans becoming reality in the coming years and to Pallion becoming the Hollywood of the North East.”