Bid to put ‘wow factor’ back into Southwick as work takes place to clear site of arson

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Let’s put the ‘wow’ factor back into Southwick!

That’s the hope of campaigners who want work to clear the site of a burned-out bingo hall to signal the start of a major redevelopment project to return the area to its former glory.

Coun Alex Samuels, left, and candidate Michael Butler, watch on as contractors clear the former Bingo Hall site, Southwick, Sunderland.

Coun Alex Samuels, left, and candidate Michael Butler, watch on as contractors clear the former Bingo Hall site, Southwick, Sunderland.

It is hoped the work on Southwick Green will bring in investment, with a plan being drawn up for improvements which aim to bring back a sense of pride to the area.

Sunderland City Council has drafted in contractors to clear the privately-owned site, which was ravaged by a blaze in February 2017.

Read more: Work starts to clear site of burned down Sunderland bingo hall

The “five-figure” bill will be footed from council funds with the backing of leader Coun Graeme Miller.

Related: Company fined after failing to act on arson-hit former Sunderland bingo hall

While the land, along with the former Southwick Workingmen’s Club site, are privately owned, ward members hope the cleared areas will encourage developers.

We’re really proud of Southwick and we know the residents who live in this area are too.

Coun Alex Samuels

Labour Coun Alex Samuels said: “We hope this will clear the way for this great community.

“It’s fantastic to see the work start here now after what’s been a long, frustrating two years for the residents, the businesses, for everybody that passes through the area.

“We’re really proud of Southwick and we know the residents who live in this area are too.

“It’s very disappointing the owners haven’t taken the responsibility and made sure that this was cleaned, so that the council have now had to step in and carry on that work.

Fire as it raged at the former bingo hall site in Southwick on Friday, February 3, 2017.

Fire as it raged at the former bingo hall site in Southwick on Friday, February 3, 2017.

“We want it to be a vibrant place and when you come here you say ‘wow,’ this is a really lively shopping area where they want to stop and buy things and spend some time with their families.”

Related: Devastation as blaze rips through former Sunderland bingo hall

Other plans for the Green, Sunderland’s oldest village green dating back more than 1000 years, include removing old street furniture and shrubs which gather litter and work on the war memorial.

Labour candidate Michael Butler - who is running for election on May 2 alongside Anna Debska (Green), Christopher Marshall (Independent), Liam Ritchie (Conservative), Peter Walton (Liberal Democrat) and David White (UKIP) - said: “The site has been an eyesore, there’s no two ways about it, and I completely understand the residents views, as a resident myself.

“We want something to be built which will benefit the people of the area and the people of Southwick are proud to be from here and we want to keep that.”

Contractors clear the former Bingo Hall site, Southwick, Sunderland.

Contractors clear the former Bingo Hall site, Southwick, Sunderland.