Plans submitted to create huge film studio - including world's largest covered water studio - at Pallion shipyard

Plans that could pave the way for Pallion Shipyard to be transformed into state-of-the-art film studios have been submitted to Sunderland City Council.

Pallion Engineering has made an application to the local authority for the regeneration and transformation of its substantial land holdings on the River Wear to create a complex with the potential to create more than a thousand new jobs.

This proposal will see the development of upwards of 500,000 sq ft of creative space, retaining the existing mega-structures, which will include the largest covered 'water studio' in the world.

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Plans for Pallion Shipyard Studios are being led by production company Metalwork Pictures USA, Broadwick Live (a global events business behind high-profile venues such as Printworks London), Pallion Engineering and Kajima Corporation of Japan.

An aerial shot of Pallion Shipyard

Andrew Levitas, from Metalwork Pictures, said: “With rapidly growing demand for world class production space, huge local investment, and historically unique infrastructure, Pallion Film Shipyard Studios is singularly positioned to deliver as the premiere production destination globally. This visionary facility for creators and producers alike will offer an overwhelmingly positive impact on the Sunderland community and surrounding areas.

“An area of particular focus is the creation of a deeply-rooted education and mentorship program which both benefits from as well as serves the content creating community. This is hugely exciting.”

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Shipbuilding began to decline in Sunderland towards the end of the 1970s and the city’s last shipyards eventually closed in 1989, bringing an end to over six centuries of shipbuilding on the Wear – with Pallion Shipyard the only remaining shipyard in the city.

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Pallion Shipyard photographed by the Echo in April 1976

The latest plans would save the original structures and restore them for new use.

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Simeon Aldred, Group Head of Strategy at Broadwick Live, said: “Broadwick Live, are pleased to be working with the team on Pallion Shipyard Studios.

"Broadwick Live are specialists in repurposing venues of scale, railway stations, a Victorian pumping station and the largest print works in Europe. Broadwick have created more than 20 iconic venues and film studios across the UK. We are excited to see the future of this amazing shipyard studio take place.”

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Kate Pix, Regeneration Director of Kajima Partnerships, a property and project finance investment company that delivers and manages innovative buildings for the public, said: “Kajima Partnerships are delighted to be a part of this exciting project in The City of Sunderland. We believe it will bring real regeneration and opportunity to this area”.

A shot from the Echo archives of the launch of Ian Doxfords on 20 August 1970 at Pallion shipyard
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The re-industrialisation vision of this ambitious project will see the integration of Pallion Shipyard Studios at the heart of the existing Riverside regeneration proposals to create a New Vibrant Creative Quarter.

The proposals will support the creative ambitions being explored by Sunderland City Council, the University of Sunderland and North East Screen, to position the city and North East region to capitalise on the growing opportunities presented by film and media.

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Visionary plans fit with the levelling up agenda being shared with Government, and have the potential to create new long-term sustainable employment utilising Sunderland's historic fabrication and traditional trade skills as well as those in the creative field.

Sunderland City Council leader, Councillor Graeme Miller, said: “We welcome the owners’ ambition for retaining and reusing this significant building and are supportive of this emerging sector within the city - which represents a significant opportunity for the North East.”

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Plans for Pallion Engineering’s estates would see existing structures re-used and repaired, and a refurbishment of the company’s distinctive super-structure carried out to reduce the development’s carbon impact.

Jo Robison of DPP Planning commented: “DPP are delighted to be advising the development team on this exciting next phase of the regeneration of Sunderland and look forward to continuing to work alongside the City Council to realise their wider vision.

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"The unique opportunity to create a new Creative Quarter at Pallion, centred around the shipyard mega-structure, will undoubtedly complement and enhance the excellent work to date on the Riverside Masterplan.”

Lee McLaughlin of Faulknerbrowns Architects, who are the architects behind the new City Hall and Culture House set to be built in the city centre, said: “The regeneration of Pallion into a creative district for arts, media and new forms of linked industrialism not only ensures a long second-life for this iconic site, but it extends and continues the riverside regeneration which is already underway at Riverside Sunderland."