Family homes planned for Sunderland Civic Centre land if move to Vaux site goes ahead

Sunderland Civic Centre could be moving to the city's Vaux site - with the cleared plot to be sold off for family homes.

Wednesday, 10th October 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th October 2018, 8:43 am
Sunderland Civic Centre could be demolished to make way for a new family housing estate. Photo by Tom Banks.
Sunderland Civic Centre could be demolished to make way for a new family housing estate. Photo by Tom Banks.

The city council says its headquarters in Burdon Road will be “functionally obsolete” within five years, with leader Graeme Miller saying a new building is “a necessity, not a legacy” as annual repair bills top £200,000.

The funds needed to cover the cost - whether a building it takes ownership of or a rented property - can be raised through borrowing, while cash will also be generated through the sale of the civic centre plot for housing.

Sunderland Civic Centre could be demolished to make way for a new family housing estate. Photo by Tom Banks.

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The council says the suggestion has been discussed behind closed doors for a number of years as the 1970s building continues to crumble and leak, with the first step in public view to be next Wednesday before its cabinet.

If given the initial green light, the next six months will be used to firm up proposals, with a timescale of three years suggested for the new complex.

While other land, including part of Holmeside, have been drawn up on a wishlist, the council says the Vaux is its preferred choice.

The Vaux site in Sunderland, where the Beam is already under constuction, could become home to a new civic centre. Picture by Tom Banks.

Land in phase two of the scheme, to the west of the Beam building under construction, is pencilled in.

The old brewery site is under development by Siglion, which was a partnership between the council and now-defunct Carillion, with Tolent since brought in as a construction partner.

Designs are yet to be drawn up, but the authority wants to create two buildings linked by a central atrium for its 1,200 staff and services, with parking on site.

Sunderland Civic Centre's site could be cleared as the council moves to the Vaux site under plans. Picture by Tom Banks.

It says the existing civic centre land would create a new “quality housing” development with shops, transport links and park space on its doorstep.

Councillor Miller said: “The good thing about the Vaux site is it’s ours and it’s in keeping with our aspirations to have a public sector hub as part of the city centre.

“If we use this as a lever and be a landmark anchor tenant, there will be others pulled to the site.

“When you think about all the things which are happening on the Vaux site, what’s going on in the MAC Quarter and what’s going on with the Beam, Sunderland City Council is doing the job of getting people and jobs on the site and this will help.

An area of the civic centre's reception has been cordoned off due to a leaking roof.

“It’s going in a great direction that area and that’s where we need to be.”

A survey of the existing centre found the asbestos-filled, leaking and dilapidated building no longer meets modern standards, with the cost of repairs to rise.

Options drawn up were to relocate to a brownfield site in Holmeside along with shops; relocating to the Vaux land, either owned by the council or rented through a partner such as Siglion as its landlord or repairing, refurbishing and improving the centre and mothballing just under half its space.

It says when these were compared, Vaux came out “the strongest.”

It is also the cheapest - £1.4million cheaper over 25 years than relocating to Holmeside and £4.7million cheaper than remaining in and refurbishing the current centre.

Damaged steps outside Sunderland Civic Centre.

Cabinet meets at Sunderland Civic Centre at 2pm on Wednesday, October 17.

An area of the car park at Sunderland Civic Centre.