Extra Â£2million for Sunderland Tall Ships Race to fund work on River Wear
Sunderland City Council has approved the cash for infrastructure works, such as dredging the River Wear, so boats can be berthed safely and to protect crew and guests.
An estimated 1.5 million visitors are expected from Wednesday, July 11, to Saturday, July 14, with up to 80 ships due on the River Wear.
Senior councillors say the event will provide an “economic injection” for Sunderland of up to £35million.
Dredging the Wear at a cost of £1,231,010 is needed and will also allow temporary pontoons to be fixed in place, while the cost of hiring the pontoons is put at £700,000.
Jubilee Quay requires refurbishment at a cost of £281,670, and will allowe Hudson Dock to be used to berth ships.
That work will provide space for commercial vessels in the future, as will an additional 120 metres of operational berthing.
A bill to fix 888 metres of handrails at Palmers Hill, Panns East and West Quays stands at £260,975.
The Labour-led authority, which agreed an initial £3 million investment in 2015, has said the extra spend is on work that will benefit the city long after the Tall Ships have left - but Conservative opponents say the ‘emergency money’ suggests a ‘loss of control’ over finances.
Cou John Kelly, cabinet member for public health, wellness and culture, said: “Forecasts suggest that there will be an economic injection into the city of between £30 million and £35 million.
“The council agreed an initial financial allocation at the bidding stage of the event, which was three years ago, and work has continued on refining costs for the event.
“Hosting a successful event of the size and scale of the Tall Ships requires major investment in the city’s infrastructure and its facilities. Much of the infrastructure being put in place for the Tall Ships Races will have a longer term benefit beyond the event itself.”
A Conservative spokesman said the party supports the event as it will attract visitors and boost businesses, but added: “A total of £2 million of emergency money has had to be put in to fund improvements at the port to allow the event to go ahead at a time when the Labour Group are complaining about cuts.
“This is a huge amount of money to be spent on a one-off event and suggests some loss of control over the finances as well as a failure to raise sufficient sponsorship.”