Nine big Sunderland projects to watch as £60million building and regeneration spending approved

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City leaders on Wearside have backed nearly £60million worth of building and regeneration projects which could be included in next year’s council budget.

Sunderland City Council’s cabinet, at a meeting this week, agreed to the latest round of proposals for the local authority’s capital programme.

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Totalling a potential investment of £57.83million, the projects include investment into provision for children with special educational needs and improvements to key council, leisure, housing and health services.

Sunderland City HallSunderland City Hall
Sunderland City Hall

There are plans to invest in sports and leisure centres across the city, as well as work to revive the Sunniside Leisure complex which was recently vacated by Empire Cinemas.

Elsewhere, city leaders are looking at investments to create safer and improved accommodation for residents in need, along with funding for extra car parking at Herrington Country Park.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds are also proposed for anti-social behaviour work, special educational needs transport and updating Barnes Park’s café.

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The new projects proposed in the capital programme represent around £38 million of new capital investment and a mix of both external funding and existing capital resources.

Subject to further decision-making next year, some proposals could start moving forward as early as the 2024/25 financial year.

Here are nine of the key capital proposals being prepared for Sunderland City Council’s next budget.

Relocation of Barbara Priestman Academy (£8 million)

The proposal would see Barbara Priestman Academy move from its current site at Ashbrooke and some buildings at Thornhill Academy to the site that “will be vacated by Thorney Close Primary School in 2026”.

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Barbara Priestman Academy, which provides 180 of the city’s special school places for pupils with autism, would move into a refurbished premises with “adaptations to ensure children with learning difficulties and disabilities are suitably catered for”.

According to a council cabinet report, the proposal would provide additional specialist school places for the city and would provide for secondary and sixth form pupils.

The specialist teaching block currently used by Barbara Priestman Academy in Ashbrooke is proposed to be “retained as a special educational needs facility with associated outdoor space”.

A council report adds the remainder of the site “would be declaredsurplus and made available for alternative, non-educational use, ordevelopment”.

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Redevelopment of Bishopwearmouth Crematorium (£15.6 million)

Proposals include the “refurbishment and remodelling” of the existing crematorium, including a second chapel, along with increased on-site parking facilities, landscaping upgrades and new methods to reduce carbon.

A council report states the second chapel would “support continuing operations during construction, provide increased capacity, as well as protection of service should one chapel need to temporarily close”.

Upgrades for Sunniside Leisure building (£2 million)

The property, which includes several restaurant units and a cinema unit, was acquired by Sunderland City Council in early 2023.

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Following the administration of Empire Cinemas this year, new funding will be used for the “refurbishment and fit-out of the cinema and the three adjoining vacant retail units in order to attract new tenants to support the regeneration of the area”.

A council report states “discussions are progressing with a number of potential tenants for these units”, however it is not known whether the council is in discussions with another cinema operator.

In addition, works are also planned to “renovate and refurbish” the Sunniside multi-storey car park.

Upgrades at the former Joplings Building (£1 million)

The building was recently acquired by the city council with a building condition survey identifying works needed.

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Funding is expected to be used to “make improvements to the aestheticappearance of the building and to support a long-term investment strategy aligned to the regeneration of the city centre”.

The council has previously said the former high street department store will be improved at ground floor level, with the aim of attracting retail or food and drink businesses, as well as works to enhance the upper floors.

Replacement of Coalfields Depot (£6 million)

A further £6 million has been allocated towards the council’s Houghton depot, which would take the total budget to around £12.7 million.

A council report states the existing depot is “in poor condition, does not effectively meet current operational need and has poor energy and cost efficiency”.

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New plans aim to provide a “purpose-built, fit-for-purpose depot” with low carbon technologies and vehicle charging facilities to “support the strategic directive and operational transition to a carbon neutral council fleet”.

The depot would provide a range of local services for the Coalfields, including refuse collection, winter maintenance and maintenance of parks.

Upgrades at sports and leisure centres (£6 million)

Proposals include gym refurbishments, a new fenced athletics track at Silksworth, and energy-saving LED light replacements at outdoor sports courts.

Plans also include changing room refurbishments at Sunderland Aquatic Centre and sports facilities in Silksworth, Hetton, Houghton, Hendon and Washington.

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The delivery of works will be undertaken by the council’s leisure delivery partner Everyone Active, and investment is expected to be boosted further through the use of external grants.

Domestic abuse safe accommodation (£10 million)

The investment aims to help the council meet its legal duty to provide “appropriate, needs-led provision of safer accommodationfor domestic abuse victims and their children”.

Plans include a “new ‘central hub’ accommodation solution replacing currentrefuge facilities and [to] deliver best practice accommodation in the city, withsupport of estimated £3 million funding from Homes England”.

A council report states proposals aim to improve access to refuge provision and to increase the proportion of people who “report improved health and wellbeing outcomes following a refuge placement”.

Extra car parking at Herrington Country Park (£900,000)

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Proposals aim to respond to increased popularity and visitors at the park, with existing parking being labelled by the council as “inadequate, leading to inconsiderate parking on grassed areas”.

New plans aim to expand the existing car park by the café and also provide new parking next to the skate park, creating around 67 new spaces for visitors.

Updates to Farmborough Court Intermediate Care Centre (£750,000)

The service, which has operated for more than 20 years, provides up to 42 beds supporting adults who are recovering from illness or injury.

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A council report states: “It is proposed to modernise and refurbish the building to enhance the facilities and provide a building which is fit for purpose and can meet the aspirations of the service.

“Improvements will include refurbishment of the bedrooms and ensuite facilities as well as to the kitchens and other communal areas”.