It cost £700k and brought in £70k – temporary carpark on Sunderland Vaux site branded a waste of money

Coun Peter Wood at the temporary car park on the former Vaux site.
Coun Peter Wood at the temporary car park on the former Vaux site.
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A TEMPORARY car park on the controversial former Vaux Brewery site generated almost £70,000 in revenue – despite costing more than £700,000 to create.

Sunderland City Council opened the 170-space site, next to St Mary’s Way, just over a year ago.

Landscaping the site cost just over £251,000 and the total cost of preparing part of it as a car park was £472,000.

Councillors today slammed the authority’s decisions over the redevelopment of the area, but council bosses hit back saying it was only ever going to be temporary.

A Freedom of Information request by the Echo revealed a total of £69,68.90, which includes VAT, was raised in parking charges during its 10-month existence.

Vaux Brewery closed in 1999 but it was not until 2011 that Sunderland City Council acquired the 26-acre site, following a wrangle with supermarket giant Tesco.

Conservative councillor Peter Wood said: “The figure of £700,000 is a lot of money and city residents will be forgiven for questioning the sanity of a council that – after the area has remained derelict for more than 10 years – allows a recently-established car park to be torn up again.

“It is all very well saying the contractor will be responsible for reinstatement – that means the car park will have been laid out twice and – through the contractor’s bill to the council – both times at the council taxpayer’s expense.

“We’re supposed to be saving money, not throwing it away down the drain unnecessarily.”

The temporary car park was closed in May, as work started to create a new gateway into the city centre by realigning St Mary’s Way, which it is hoped will be able to attract private sector investment and up to 4,000 jobs.

It is now being used by contractors, and council bosses said will again become a temporary car park when work is completed.

But Independent councillor Colin Wakefield called the decision to close the car park “sinful”.

“They have already built on the site of the Tavistock Place car park, which is now Software City, at a time when car parking space is at a premium,” he said. “There just seems to be no logic to it.”

Councillor Mel Speding, cabinet secretary at Sunderland Council, said: “The works included landscaping, remediation work such as removing demolition and contaminated building materials that had been left by the previous owner, and also creating this temporary car park with its 170 spaces. Note my words there – temporary.

“This temporary car park is now being used by contractors as a works compound for the regeneration project that is creating St Mary’s Boulevard and the New Square next to the Vaux site.

“So, as well as clearing the Vaux site and making it ready and suitable for comprehensive development, the council has created a cost benefit with revenue from the car parking and from its use as a works compound.

“This works compound will be returned to the council upon completion of the St Mary’s works and once again become a temporary car park.

“There are still more than 2,000 spaces at council car parks in the city centre, including St Mary’s and Sunniside, and private parking is also available.

“Councillors Wakefield and Wood really should try and understand the bigger picture.

“The city council is investing in the city centre because as we move forward, it is vital the Vaux site is prepared to meet the needs and aspirations of both potential developers and the city as a whole.

“Vaux is the ideal place for a central business district that is linked to the city centre. Work around St Mary’s is a part of this and using a temporary car park as a works compound will benefit all.”