Plans unveiled for towering new ‘City Hall’ designed to replace Sunderland Civic Centre on Vaux site

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Plans have been unveiled for a towering public sector hub which could become the new home of Sunderland City Council.

Last year, council bosses announced plans to move Sunderland Civic Centre to the Vaux site in a bid to replace its HQ with a smaller, more cost-effective base.

Two other options were originally presented alongside the Vaux move, including refurbishing the existing civic centre or moving to Holmeside.

But council bosses opted for the Vaux site, which they said carried the lowest level of risk to services alongside being £4.7million cheaper than revamping its current offices.

This week, a planning application was lodged for seven-storey and six-storey buildings on the site near Keel Square.

The new plans are linked to ‘phase two’ of development on the Vaux site, which is being led by the council’s development partnership Siglion.

New plans include a 18,075 sqm business hub with ‘civic-related uses’, office space, a medical centre, a creche, a cafe/restaurant and a roof terrace.

If approved, construction could start later this year, with  buildings offering a range of council and public services, alongside a new road link to Cumberland Street.

The hub’s ground floor is set to host customer service points, a cafe and a ‘debating chamber’ while other floors will provide office space.

And designs aim to take inspiration from historic buildings in the area in the nearby Bishopwearmouth Conservation Area.

Sunderland City Council’s leader, Coun Graeme Miller, speaking at full council last week, confirmed the site could be called the “City Hall and Public Sector Hub”.

He added the council’s childrens’ services agency Together for Children, youth offending team and Department of Work and Pensions are planning to move to the site.

If a business case is approved for the move, 1,200 council employees will relocate to building and work alongside a number of public sector organisations.

The hub will include a small amount of commercial space, new footpaths, cycle bays and extra parking provided on the wider site.

To meet council targets to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, the new building could also use solar hot water heating.

A planning statement adds: “The building has been designed into three distinctive sections, which relates to the makeup of buildings within the existing urban area.

“To reflect that the building shares a frontage to the city centre and therefore is required to be contemporary yet in-keeping of the existing urban grain.”

A cabinet report, due to be discussed next week, states the ‘civic centre replacement’ is expected to cost £41.381million in capital funding, with £2.274million set aside for 2019/20.

It adds the remaining project funds of £39.1million will spent over the following four financial years – 2020/21 to 2023/24.

The Vaux Brewery closed in 1999 bringing more than 150 years of brewing history to an end in the region.

After remaining dormant for almost two decades, planning permission was granted the first building on the site, The Beam, in 2015.

While building ground to a halt following the collapse of construction giant Carillion, works were continued by North East firm Tolent.

In recent weeks, council bosses announced that the £20million building is set for completion in March, with the first tenants set to move in in April.

The wider Vaux development aims to provide 19 buildings including office, hotel, restaurant and exhibition centre uses, parking and public realm spaces.

Chief executive of Siglion, John Seager, said: “It’s fantastic that, with weeks to go until we open our first building on site, The Beam, we are already in a position to look ahead to phase two and submit a planning application.

“This second building will provide an extremely flexible space made up of two buildings connected by a glass atrium with an ability to accommodate many types of different occupiers.

“Vaux will play a critical role in the regeneration of the whole city centre – so it is important that the second building – much like the first – is a space that can deliver a modern, efficient healthy, workplace, as well as a place that the public can enjoy.

“Working with (architects) FaulknerBrowns, we have been able to design a space that – like The Beam- raises the bar in the city and we are very hopeful that we will be on-site soon and getting this new development underway.”

If approved, the plans are also expected to provide a space large enough to accommodate up to 1,900 people, by 2021.

The public can comment on the ‘public sector hub’ plans until Tuesday, February 26 by writing to the council or commenting on its planning portal.

A final decision on the plans is also expected by Tuesday, May 7.

For more information, visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/online-applications and search planning ref: 19/00188/FU4

Caption: Vaux Site, Sunderland Picture: Google Maps 

Caption: Artist impressions of proposed public sector hub at Sunderland’s Vaux site. View from Keel Square Picture: Siglion

Caption: Artist impressions of proposed public sector hub at Sunderland’s Vaux site. View of internal atrium  Picture:Siglion 

Caption: Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service