Housing, Innovation and Construction Skills Academy approved for Sheepfolds in Sunderland

Plans for a multi-million pound facility aiming to train and upskill the housebuilders of the future have been given the green light.

By Chris Binding
Tuesday, 29th March 2022, 3:21 pm

In recent months, Sunderland City Council has been helping to develop plans for a Housing, Innovation and Construction Skills Academy (HICSA) in the Sheepfolds area of the city.

The project aims to train local people to create innovative factory-built new homes, the first of which will be assembled as part of a new neighbourhood at Riverside Sunderland.

City council bosses previously said the plans would fit with the government’s levelling up agenda by creating more economic opportunities for people and businesses by enabling the area to ‘build its own’ homes.

How the Housing, Innovation and Construction Skills Academy will look (Image: Sunderland City Council).

The project was recently given a funding boost from the government’s Levelling Up Fund which is expected to be used to support the gross cost of the HICSA project of more than £14million.

On March 28, 2022, the HICSA plans took another step forward after winning backing from the council’s Planning and Highways (East) Committee.

A planning application proposed the “conversion, restoration and repurposing” of an existing “engine shed” structure near Millennium Way in the Southwick ward.

In addition, it included the construction of a link building and hybrid structure to create a ‘workshop’ for the HICSA.

As a collaboration between Sunderland City Council, Sunderland College, the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education and industry, the hub would act as a “conduit for future graduates into the workplace.”

According to a report prepared for councillors, the facility also seeks to be a “national centre for an innovative industry-led partnership which seeks to transform the way in which the next generation of students are taught about building design and construction.”

This includes “showcasing the future methods of construction to both its students and with the industry of house builders and construction companies”.

The physical HICSA development would create double-height workshops, a social hub and a variety of learning and breakout spaces for students and staff, along with a restaurant and kitchen area.

In terms of staffing, it is anticipated that the facility will employ 15 full-time members of staff and have an intake of up to 400 full-time students and 200 part-time students.

Following a presentation from council officers, the Planning and Highways (East) Committee voted unanimously to approve the planning application.

Councillor Michael Butler, chair of the panel, told the meeting: “I think it’s a fantastic development which will bring some much-needed new skills to Sunderland.”