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A tour of the historic Sheepfolds stable block earmarked to become vibrant leisure and events space

Many in the city will be forgiven for not knowing of this historic Sheepfolds site – but this old stable block is a real dark horse.

Sunday, 30th January 2022, 6:00 am

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Situated in the shadow of the Stadium of Light, at the very far end of Sheepfolds Industrial Estate, the Grade II-listed building dates back to Sunderland’s heyday as a Victorian industrial town when it was used for working horses.

More recently, it was used for car storage and had fallen into a state of disrepair and was largely forgotten about.

But new owners BDN (Building Design Northern) have a bold vision for the site, which was previously owned by Edward Thompsons.

Inside the old stable block set to become new leisure and events space

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Last week they unveiled £2million plans to turn it into a vibrant events and leisure space, whilst making the most of its historic features, including its distinctive stable arch and cobble stones.

They already have the keys and preliminary work has begun to make the structure safe, with plans due to go before the city council’s planning committee during the first half of this year, with building work starting shortly afterwards, subject to approval.

In the meantime, the Echo had a tour of the site with BDN operations director Ryan Doyle who says it’s an exciting venture to be a part of.

Linked to the city centre via the new pedestrian bridge, which is due to start being built this year as part of the Riverside masterplan, the stables yard would host music and performance on a large outdoor stage as well pop- up events, markets and daytime activity from food vendors and more.

Former stables, The Sheepfolds, Sunderland.

"This is the kind of development you expect to see in cities like London,” explained Ryan. “But there’s a real hunger for change in the city at the moment. We had a great response to the announcement of this site, people are keen to see something being done with it.

"I was out in Sunderland on Saturday and you can see the changes already. There was a show on at the new Fire Station auditorium and at the Empire and all the bars and restaurants around it were alive and buzzing, it’s great to see.”

All going to plan, the stable block would be completed in 2023 and would see the space become a multi-purpose site, with pre-match events and food, as well as traders markets, street food, gigs and more.

As well as utilising the existing buildings and open space, there will be a more contemporary extension. Plans include eight shop-fronted units, which are expected to attract cafe, restaurant and retail operators, as well as two open courtyards.

Former stables, The Sheepfolds, Sunderland. Ryan Doyle Ops Manager BDM

BDN have already had great success in transforming another forgotten building: Simpson Street School in Deptford.

As well as relocating their headquarters to the site, their sympathetic restoration of the Victorian school has seen their team create eight loft-style apartments at the Grade II-listed building.

Businesses interested in finding out about the retail and commercial spaces within the stables building should contact Rochelle Richardson at BDN, at [email protected] or by calling 0191 535 6189

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How the Sheepfolds stables could look if plans are approved

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Former stables, The Sheepfolds, Sunderland.
It could become a buzzing leisure and events space
Work has started to make the site structurally safe
Former stables, The Sheepfolds, Sunderland.
A new roof is one of the first major jobs to be done
The stables once housed working horses
Former stables, The Sheepfolds, Sunderland.
Former stables, The Sheepfolds, Sunderland.