New builders merchants plan approved on ex-Littlewoods site in Sunderland

The former Littlewoods site in Sunderland is set for a new lease of life as a ‘builders merchants’.

Thursday, 9th May 2019, 11:29 am

The land, off Commercial Road, used to be home to the retail giant but has remained vacant for a number of years.

Under new plans, the site is set to become a commercial hub for tradespeople across the city.

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Plans include a trade counter/ warehousing building, 35-space car park and a ‘turning area’ for heavy goods vehicles.

And several parts of the site will also be used to store materials.

The application was originally lodged with Sunderland City Council last year and has seen several changes – including providing more glazed windows.

When complete, customers will be able to access the site from Robinson Terrace, off the A1018 roundabout.

Yesterday, (May 8), the councils area Development Control Sub-Committee rubber stamped the plans for the site opposite the Raich Carter Sports Centre.

At the Sunderland Civic Centre meeting, Coun Michael Dixon asked whether the car park could be opened up for public use.

He said: “There seems to be a lot of area there for car parking.

“Is that a designated use? Could it be used for other purposes in the future in terms of industrial land.

“Or is that an integral part of that builders merchant which will be definitely required.”

However, planning and highways officers stressed the parking was an “essential part of the development”.

And planning conditions would make sure that the parking could only be used in association with the  new builders merchants.

Sunderland’s Littlewoods call centre was established in 1955 as a depot for the Brian Mills company.

A second credit mail-order firm, Burlington, was added at the centre in 1958, followed by Janet Frazer six years later.

The Hendon centre was such an important depot for the firm that it even boasted its own railway line.

In 2010, the firm announced it would close its Sunderland operation with the loss of 900 jobs.

At the time, the firm blamed the rise of internet shopping for a drop in demand for call centre services.

A design and access statement from applicants adds the new plans will create a sustainable development, “show commitment to good design” and respond to the “specific challenges of the site.”

And once an occupier is found, the site is also expected to create 25 full-time jobs.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service