Plans approved for pontoons to boost water sports and provide a home to visiting ships after success of Tall Ships

Plans for permanent pontoons on the River Wear to boost city events have won approval from council bosses.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 4:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 7:42 pm
File picture from the Tall Ships Races in Sunderland in 2018

Following the success of events such as the Tall Ships, Sunderland City Council have been progressing plans for Manor Quay.

This includes new platforms by the University of Sunderland’s St Peter’s campus for river-related activities, riverside council events and the mooring of visiting ships.

On Tuesday February 11, the plans took a step forward after cabinet launched the process to award a contract for the design, manufacture and installation of the riverside structures.

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The project would see three metre wide ‘heavy-duty pontoons’ with provision for canoes as well as new electricity and fresh water connections to Manor Quay.

A report, presented to councillors, states two options are being considered.

The preferred option includes 110 metres worth of pontoons with two gangways to provide the “greatest benefit for future events and space for moorings.”

If this is unaffordable, a second option includes 70 metres of pontoons with one gangway.

Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, Coun Amy Wilson, said £360,000 has been earmarked for the project – an estimate based on temporary pontoons used at the 2018 Tall Ships event.

When completed, the University of Sunderland is expected to maintain the platforms under a lease agreement with the council.

Cabinet member for Communities and Culture, Coun John Kelly, added the plans would open up a raft of leisure and potential commercial opportunities in the area.

“The river is a good asset to the city and both myself and Coun Wilson have had numerous group sessions with elected members in that part of the area,” he said.

“The Tall Ships proved that our river is a fantastic asset and it proved that there was not only a regional and national but international audience that wanted to come and take part.

“The Riverside Festival which we did for the first time last year worked really well and has proved the need to have the infrastructure in place.”

He added: “The fact we will then have the university putting activity on the river through both their yacht club and potentially canoe clubs is another huge asset.

“It’s a controllable asset so we can keep people safe by doing it the right way.

“I’m absolutely delighted with [the project] and it’s been a long process to get us to where we are.

“I think it’s a fantastic news story.”

The project will be delivered through a ‘Riverside Animation’ funding pot in the council’s capital programme.

City bosses hope to have pontoons up and running in time for the 2020 summer events programme. A cabinet report adds: “Failure to provide a permanent solution by August 2020 will require the provision of an expensive temporary solution that would then require a permanent solution in the future resulting in a greater cost to the council.”

Council chiefs say the Tall Ships Races, together with the 30th anniversary Sunderland Airshow, generated around £19.3million for the city.