Decision due on plans for new hospital to replace Sunderland Eye Infirmary at former Vaux brewery site
Last year, Sunderland City Council (SCC) approved plans for a multi-million pound facility on the former Vaux Brewery site.
Working with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT), the local authority had submitted proposals to its own planning department for part of the Riverside Sunderland regeneration site.
The £36 million NHS hub is set to replace the existing Sunderland Eye Infirmary building in Queen Alexandra Road, which has been in operation for more than 75 years.
It will also mean that Sunderland will remain home to the region’s only standalone eye hospital and one of the few specialist centres for ophthalmology nationally.
In August, revised plans for the eye hospital were submitted in a bid to boost capacity for patients and reduce waiting lists.
According to the planning application, the NHS is facing a national backlog and long waiting lists, partly due to the number of planned treatments postponed or cancelled during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A feasibility study commissioned by the city council and STSFT reviewed options to “increase clinical accommodation delivered by the development”.
Following a series of reviews, the revised eye hospital plans now include an expanded Cataract Treatment Centre, with non-clinical accommodation moving to the building’s top floor.
According to documents submitted to council planners, the eye hospital would be able to accommodate up to 342 staff by 2030, which represents an increase of 30 from the previously approved scheme.
Four additional public drop off and pick up spaces are proposed to the north of the main building to reflect the additional clinical accommodation.
The site would also include a main car park “primarily for use by patients and carers” and parking for staff proposed within the new multi-storey car park at Farringdon Row.
The revised plans have been submitted on behalf of Sunderland City Council as both landowner and applicant and the eye hospital building’s footprint, approved in 2021, will remain unchanged.
In a report prepared for decision-makers at the city’s Planning and Highways Committee, council planning officers deemed the scheme acceptable and recommended it for approval.
The report adds: “The site occupies a principal gateway location adjacent to significant designated heritage assets, including the Bishopwearmouth Conservation Area and adjacent listed buildings, and the listed Wear Bridges.
“It is considered that the planning submission has successfully demonstrated a scheme that is set to make a significant and positive contribution to townscape character and will become a significant development in the city.
“It is considered that the application proposal represents another key element of the continued re-development of Vaux.
“Significant weight therefore is being given to the regeneration of this prominent vacant, brownfield site.
“It is also considered to be a sustainable and accessible location, easily accessed via public transport, car, foot and bicycle, and it is noted that the development will be built to modern energy efficiency standards incorporating emerging efficiency measures and low carbon technologies”.
The planning meeting to rule on the scheme is scheduled to take place at City Hall on Monday (October 31) from 5.30pm and will be open to the public.