Creative Seed granted alcohol and entertainment licence for new venture in Southwick

Plans for a new arts centre on Wearside have taken a step forward this week after creative bosses won their bid for an alcohol and entertainment licence.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Friday, 10th January 2020, 11:50 am
Refurbishment underway at the former St. Hilda's Parish Centre in 2019.

Last year, community interest company The Creative Seed revealed plans to kickstart a new venture in Southwick.

The group are well-known for their work on events such as South Tyneside’s annual Festival Summer Parade and currently operate a centre in the borough.

As part of their move to open a second centre in Sunderland, the firm is refurbishing the former St Hilda’s Parish Centre, with an aim of hosting exhibitions, performances and workshops.

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After neighbours raised concerns about a licensing application to sell alcohol and host live music and plays at the space, Creative Seed were called before council licensing bosses to discuss the plans.

A letter from The King’s Road residents raised fears about potential parking, noise and the need for alcohol sales.

Husband and wife team at Creative Seed, Garner and Sandy Harris, defended the plans at Sunderland Civic Centre.

Mrs Harris said: “We’re not moving into Southwick to generate drunken people having parties and going and causing trouble, that’s not what it’s about at all.

“We’re a family-run business, we work with families and we want to keep the residents happy and work with the community to build something great in Southwick.

“Yes we will be bringing other people in from outside the area but I think that would be a good thing, it is generating business, helping young people learn new skills and giving people somewhere to go.”

Mr Harris also described complaints about noise as a “preemptive strike” due to ongoing works to reduce noise pollution at the site.

This includes double glazed windows, specialist curtains and blinds and hosting performances in a space away from the front of the building.

Creative Seed bosses added alcohol sales would be mainly linked to ticketed events and would not be actively promoted.

On parking, they said they would explore schemes to reduce the impact of the arts centre on the area.

This includes working with a local taxi firm and other partners to arrange transport and scheduling shows so they don’t clash with Sunderland AFC match days.

Despite supporting the principle of the arts centre, residents told the meeting they were still concerned about parking and noise.

This includes traffic accessing other businesses in the area, the suitability of the building and the fact the venue has a maximum capacity of 250.

Following private discussions, the city council’s Licensing Sub-Committee backed the licensing bid.

This includes alcohol sales on site between 12noon-10.30pm and plays, films, live / recorded music and dance between 9am-10.30pm, seven days a week.

Chairman Coun Peter Gibson, addressing residents at the hearing, said the licence could be reviewed if problems arise in future.

“Members think that parking is a greater problem with the car wash and match-day traffic but for any other problems, you have the right to bring that back to the sub-committee,” he said.

“If the noise is too loud or anything like that, contact our environmental department and tell them, you have that opportunity and the sub-committee can consider that when or if it is brought back.”

Creative Seed works with a range of people including children, adults with learning difficulties and people with dementia.

The carnival arts and cultural centre is expected to open in Spring 2020.