Revised plans for replacement Eye Infirmary at Sunderland’s former Vaux brewery site approved, with construction expected to start in 2023

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Revised plans for a new eye hospital on Wearside have been given the stamp of approval by city councillors.

Plans for a multi-million pound facility on the former Vaux Brewery site were approved by development chiefs at Sunderland City Council last year.

But the scheme has been granted a facelift before construction has even started, after local authority bosses gave the green light to a series of changes to the original proposals, intended to increase space for patients and tackle long NHS waiting lists which have been under growing pressure since the coronavirus pandemic.

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Working with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT), which runs Sunderland Royal Hospital, the city council submitted proposals to its own planning department for part of the Riverside Sunderland regeneration site.

Artist impression of proposed new eye hospital at Riverside Sunderland on the former Vaux brewery site.Artist impression of proposed new eye hospital at Riverside Sunderland on the former Vaux brewery site.
Artist impression of proposed new eye hospital at Riverside Sunderland on the former Vaux brewery 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.

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Revised eye hospital plans include an expanded Cataract Treatment Centre, with non-clinical accommodation moving to the building’s top floor, and four additional short stay drop off and pick up spaces outside.

The facility would be able to accommodate up to 342 staff by 2030, an increase of 30 from the previously approved scheme.

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Revised plans were submitted on behalf of Sunderland City Council as both landowner and applicant.

After being put to the vote, the scheme was given the green light at Monday’s (October 31) meeting of the council’s Planning and Highways Committee.

Graeme Miller, vice-chair of the panel and leader of Sunderland City Council, said he was “delighted” to see the plan coming forward.

Cllr Miller said: “It will transform ophthalmologic surgery in Sunderland from what is already a world class facility, which is unfortunately in the wrong place and too old, bringing it into the new city centre.

“I cannot wait to see steel going up on the site”.

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Relocating the eye infirmary to Riverside Sunderland means Sunderland will remain home to the region’s only dedicated eye hospital, and one of the few specialist centres for ophthalmology nationally.

The site would include a main car park “primarily for use by patients and carers” and parking for staff proposed within the new multi-storey car park in Farringdon Row.

Work is expected to start on the new eye hospital in spring 2023 and clinical services will transfer to the new site once building work is complete.

Peter Sutton, executive director of planning and business development at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, welcomed planning permission being granted for the revised application.

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He added: “This is another important step and we’re pleased that we now have all relevant planning approvals to get work started on our new eye hospital.

“This follow up planning application gives us flexibility to add further capacity into the building if we need to expand the new eye hospital in the future.

“It made good sense to do this before building work gets under way.

“In terms of timescales, our plan remains on track for work to start on site next spring and we’re now looking forward to seeing construction begin.”

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