Outrage as landmark Sunderland clock is axed

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TIME has run out for a Sunderland landmark.

The well-known Wheatsheaf Clock has been axed to make way for a new traffic system.

Wheatsheaf Clock, which has been torn down during roadworks as part of the new Tesco development in Monkwearmouth

Wheatsheaf Clock, which has been torn down during roadworks as part of the new Tesco development in Monkwearmouth

Heritage lovers have hit out at the decision to scrap the 45-year-old clock, which originally stood outside the Wheatsheaf office block in Monkwearmouth, now home to Stagecoach bus company.

Robert Hope, from Sunderland Antiquarian Society, labelled it “cultural vandalism”.

The concrete clock was moved to the nearby roundabout at the junction between Roker Terrace, North Bridge Street and Newcastle Road in 1978.

But time began running out for the distinctive timekeeper after work started to install traffic lights at the site, as part of the new £22million Tesco Extra, set to open in spring.

A spokesman for Sunderland City Council said: “The Wheatsheaf clock faces were not keeping time and because of its age and concrete casing it was not cost-effective to repair or replace it.

“The concrete, metal and glass materials that made up the clock were sent for recycling.

“It had been intended to keep the clock.”

George Forster, chairman of SAFC Supporters’ Association in Monk Street, which overlooked the clock, said it would be a miss.

“It really is a lot safer to get across there now, but we do miss the clock being there, because it was the central thing.

“It was a landmark. It was handy to look up there if you were waiting for a bus.”

Councillor James Blackburn, portfolio holder for City Services, Sunderland City Council, said: “New traffic signals at the Wheatsheaf were switched on for the week beginning Monday, December 3.

“They have been running for a month and more than 3,000 vehicles an hour are crossing the junction on an evening and I’m reliably informed that’s running smoothly.

“It was good to be able to open this scheme ahead of schedule, before Christmas, and well ahead of the store opening.

“The works have been one of the most complex infrastructure improvements to any of the city’s traffic junctions.”

Work to install signals at the Shore Street entrance to the retail park starts early this year, along with further landscaping at the Wheatsheaf.

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Tesco first submitted plans for a superstore in October 2002.

But that proposal was for the former Vaux site, which the chain snapped up after the brewery closed in 1999.

Tesco’s plan for a £150million complex including a huge supermarket, 90-bed hotel, offices and 500 homes, fell foul of the council and regeneration company Sunderland arc, which had its own vision for the site.

It was not until January 2006 that Tesco confirmed it would be willing to sell the Vaux site if an alternative location could be found – although it ruled out the Holmeside Triangle area.

The development will include another five smaller retail units.