£1million bid to lift business in Sunderland city centre

The exterior of The Bridges Shopping centre in Market Square, Sunderland
The exterior of The Bridges Shopping centre in Market Square, Sunderland
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A BUMPER Christmas programme, theatre in Mowbray Park and improvements to streets and spaces have been unveiled as part of a £1million package to boost Sunderland city centre.

Sunderland Council assigned the cash for the coming year as part of efforts to resuscitate the ailing main shopping area.

Now cabinet members have met to discuss outline proposals for spending the money.

Bryan Charlton, the senior councillor responsible for improving Sunderland’s prosperity, said: “The key aims are to increase footfall and dwell time in the city centre in order to develop its vibrancy and to benefit local businesses.

“We also want to increase business, visitor and public satisfaction with the city centre, ensuring the council’s leading role is recognised.”

Projects funded by the £1million for 2011/12 include:

l £140,000 to carry out advanced study and design work for future improvements to Fawcett Street.

l £75,000 for a Christmas programme and improved festive lights.

l £75,000 for riverside trails between the city centre and the St Peter’s church candidate World Heritage Site.

l £5,000 for theatre in Mowbray Park.

l £20,000 to support farmers’ markets.

The council is also planning to spend £100,000 on marketing and promotion efforts, including TV, radio and newspaper and magazine adverts, bill boards, research and materials for events and festivals.

Initiatives such as the retail and Best Bar None awards will get £30,000 funding, and a provisional £60,000 has been earmarked for “footfall” cameras to measure pedestrian movements in the city centre.

This is the third year the authority has opted to plough £1million in the city centre.

Previous years have seen the council invest money in street scene improvements, including the Market Square facelift.

Included in this year’s spending proposals is the “decluttering” of Blandford Street to create public space, new signage for Derwent Street and Olive Street at Park Lane, and new street furniture, seating and litter bins.

The proposals for spending the latest round of cash come just a few months after a report showed about one in five shops in Sunderland city centre now stand empty.

A number of high-profile businesses in the city centre have closed in recent years, and Sunderland also lost Joplings – its one-time flagship department store – last year.

Recent studies have also suggested Sunderland is losing millions of pounds in retail spending each year, as Wearside shoppers take their business elsewhere – including to Newcastle and the MetroCentre.

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