New shop units approved for former Fulwell Sainsbury's site in Sunderland

Plans have been approved to transform a former city supermarket site into retail units – but uncertainty remains over which occupiers will move in.

The closure sparked concerns across the community at households being left without a food store in the area.

Several petitions were launched, including calls to keep the building as a retail outlet and another petition to keep the site exclusively for supermarket use.

The former Sainsbury's store, in Station Road, has stood empty since October 2021.

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Owners of the site previously said they were in talks with potential tenants and dismissed rumours that the site would be “redeveloped as a pub or knocked down for housing”.

In May, 2022, a planning application was submitted to Sunderland City Council seeking permission to subdivide the former supermarket into “two smaller separate retail units”.

This included external alterations to the building and a replacement shop front and partial demolition work to the rear to provide a new turning head and 10 additional parking spaces.

After considering the application and assessing it against planning policies, city council planners approved it on September 6, 2022.

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Sainsbury's in Station Road before its closure.

A planning decision report confirmed the two retail units would have a “tradable floor space of 322sqm and 263sqm”, as well as two new retail shop fronts and new condensing units.

The planning decision report adds: “It is noted that the former use of the site was as a supermarket and whilst it is noted that there may be a potential increase in footfall it is considered that any additional noise generation from this would be minimal”.

Applicants are listed in planning documents as North East Commercial and Residential Ltd (NECR).

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Back in March 2022, the owners of the building said they were not in a position to announce who is looking to take occupation of the site due to “contractual reasons”.

Speaking after the granting of planning permission this month, developers said an announcement on the future of the former supermarket will be made in due course.

A spokesperson for NECR added: “We are pressing on with the re-development and timescales have been out of our hands.

“However we can confirm the planning has now been approved and is correct in that there will be at least one food outlet replacing the store lost last year.

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“We thank the local community and hope they can be patient a little while longer until we get things across the line.

“We understand this has been a frustrating time not knowing what will be taking the place of Sainsbury’s.

“The site has been used as a supermarket for over 40 years and it has always been our intention to keep this as such.

“An announcement will follow as soon as we are given the go ahead from the relevant parties.”

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Under planning conditions, the proposed development for two retail units must be brought forward within three years.

For more information on the planning application and council decision, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 22/01064/FUL