‘More unique shops needed to boost Sunderland’

Shoppers in Sunderland City Centre
Shoppers in Sunderland City Centre
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SHOPPERS want to see more individual shops as part of a new campaign to rejuvenate Sunderland city centre.

We spoke to people in the Bridges, to see what they thought about BID Sunderland (Business Investment District), the plan to generate £2.7million to invest in boosting trade and facilites.

“Sunderland has a great range of shops, but not as good as Newcastle,” says retired land surveyor Keith Doyle, 72, of South Hylton.

“What it is really lacking, however, is good independent retailers rather than more retail chains.”

Civil servant Anne Hubbard agreed.

“There is nothing unique in Sunderland any more,” said the 64-year-old.

“I want smaller, independent shops with a bit more character.”

Michelle Palmer thinks Sunderland needs to focus on attracting the larger brand names.

“All the desirable labels are located outside the city in Newcastle or the MetroCentre,” she said.

“If the larger retail chains come to Sunderland, the consumers will follow. At the moment, Sunderland is seen as second to Newcastle – it’s missing out.”

Retired steel worker Ralph Robson, from Grindon, thinks there are a number of sites in the city centre that need attention.

“The Vaux site has the potential for development,” he said. “As does the Crowtree Leisure Centre site. Areas like these are the priority.”

In a poll on the Echo website, 56 per cent backed the Bid, feeling it would be a good move for city centre businesses.

It covers a defined geographical area from within which a levy is collected through the business rate to pay for additional services, above and beyond those provided by the public sector.

Since it was established under the Local Government Finance Act in 2003, more than 170 areas in the UK have voted in favour of a Bid, with each case specifically tailored to meet the areas particular needs and demands.

Sunderland’s proposal began on February 14 when notice was given to the Secretary of State, the details of which are yet to be finalised after consultation with businesses.

It suggests that those with a rateable value of £15,000 or more pay a levy of 1.5 per cent a year over an initial five-year period.

Commercial support for the Bid comes from Sunderland Business Ltd, a not-for-profit company working to boost trade, alongside Andy Bradley, Bridges Centre director and chairman of the Bid steering board.

Twitter: @sunderlandecho