Sunderland's former Alex Smiles waste plant set for new future as part of Liebherr expansion plans

A derelict waste site which fell victim to a major fire will now become home to a multi-national manufacturing company.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 6:00 am

The former Alex Smiles waste plant at Deptford has been bought by Sunderland City Council and will now be leased to Liebherr Sunderland as it announces plans to expand its base in the city.

A major regeneration scheme will begin in the new year to clear tonnes of waste left behind following the site’s closure due to administration in 2015, paving the way for Liebherr to further develop its business.

Work will also begin next month to restore the land at the site, taking an estimated 12 weeks to complete.

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Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller, right, with Catherine Saxon, centre, Environmental Agency Area Director and Claudia Binder, Financial Managing Director of Liebherr meet to discuss plans for the restoration and regeneration of the Alex Smailes site in Deptford.
Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller, right, with Catherine Saxon, centre, Environmental Agency Area Director and Claudia Binder, Financial Managing Director of Liebherr meet to discuss plans for the restoration and regeneration of the Alex Smailes site in Deptford.

Sunderland City Council has been working alongside the Environment Agnency to bring the site back into use as a manufacturing base for a number of years – but these plans were delayed due to a major fire there last year.

Councillor Graeme Miller, the local authority’s leader, said: “Without council intervention this abandoned waste site would have continued to be a fire risk and a liability for both residents and the city council.

“Acquiring the site has allowed the council to bring a strategically important employment site back into use, safeguarded the continued presence of a long established manufacturing company in the city and create further employment opportunities.

A major fire took place at the site in May 2018.

“As well as securing an asset for the future this will also regenerate an unused site that otherwise could have stood empty for decades and posed significant risks.”

The company, which currently employs 200 people in the city, will also be part funding the clearance of the waste site, alongside the chosen contractor.

Ralph Saelzer, Managing Director of Liebherr Sunderland Works Ltd, hailed the lease as a “unique opportunity” to expand.

The former Alex Smiles site, where planned regeneration and restoration is to take place.

She also praised the scheme’s benefit to the local area, and added: “This is really positive news for Sunderland and the local environment. We have been working closely with the city council to facilitate the project.

“This partnership will enable the abandoned waste to be removed and reduce the risk of further incidents.”

Firefighters on site at the Alex Smiles depot in Deptford.