Plans in for new drive-thru, food store and DIY outlet on Houghton Colliery site

Plans to transform the former Houghton Colliery site into a huge retail park have officially been lodged.
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The £15million development is expected to revive the site with scores of jobs created in retail, construction and the wider supply chain.

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An artist's impression of how the retail park would look from above. Illustration by Renderloft.An artist's impression of how the retail park would look from above. Illustration by Renderloft.
An artist's impression of how the retail park would look from above. Illustration by Renderloft.

A dedicated website was also set up with extra information and comment forms available.

This week the plans took an important step forward after council planners verified a full application for the former pit site.

If approved, more than 6,000 sqm of retail space will be created with the aim of expanding and complementing Houghton’s current town centre offer.

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Nine units are planned including a discount foodstore with 1,793 sqm gross floor space, a terrace of three large retail units, four smaller retail/leisure units and a drive-thru restaurant.

The former Houghton Colliery site.The former Houghton Colliery site.
The former Houghton Colliery site.

According to planning documents, Hellens Group are in ‘advanced discussions’ with retailers and are unable to confirm operators at this stage.

Alongside the discount foodstore and drive-thru uses, a DIY, household and bulky goods retailer and a frozen food operator are tipped to move into the site.

The retail park would be served by a 316-space car park with 18 accessible spaces, 14 parent and child spaces and two electric vehicle spaces, as well as servicing areas to the rear of the units.

Walking and public transport will also be promoted, with improved pedestrian linkages both across the site and with surrounding areas.

The latest estimate for jobs at the retail park includes 121 full-time equivalent roles and other “spin-off trade.”

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A planning and retail statement outlines the expected economic benefits of the scheme.

It reads: “In practice, the proposed development would provide a significant boost to the centre, by regenerating a vacant, former industrial site, which lies in an edge of centre location (within the wider centre boundary) and which has been allocated for development in successive development plans since the 1990s.

“In doing so, it would help to meet the qualitative need for new foodstore provision in the Coalfields area – over and above existing/committed facilities – identified in the council’s latest study.

“Given the location of the application site at the edge of the town centre, the proposed development offers the potential to generate linked trips and spin-off business for existing facilities.

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“It is also likely to generate a range of other economic and sustainability benefits, by creating significant new employment opportunities, increasing the amount of money which is spent in the local area and reducing the need to travel, including by car.”

Houghton Colliery closed in 1981 after operating for more than 150 years.

While the site was remediated in the 1980s and allocated for development in various plans, it remains undeveloped to this day.

A design and access statement adds the retail park would provide an “attractive and positive improvement to Houghton town centre.”

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It is also likely the scheme would incorporate public art commemorating the site’s mining history.

Sunderland City Council’s planning authority is expected to rule on the plans by early December following consultation.

Comments can be made by writing to the council’s planning department or visiting its online portal.

For more information, visit and search planning reference 20/01591/FU4

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Details of the proposals can also be found here:

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