Sunderland Airshow latest: Call for alternative events to support small businesses in city after scrapping of iconic weekend

Calls have been made to ensure alternative events are planned to help support small businesses in Sunderland following the cancellation of the airshow.

Sunderland City Council last month confirmed it would not be holding the world-famous Sunderland International Airshow in future as part of ambitions to make the council and city carbon neutral.

At the latest meeting of the local authority’s economic prosperity scrutiny committee on Tuesday, council chiefs again defended the decision.

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Councillor Linda Williams, portfolio holder for Vibrant City, said: “We’ve got a city plan, that ties up the environmental aspects of that, we have to look at the carbon issues around the airshow.

A petition to reinstate Sunderland Airshow attracted hundreds of signatures.

“To be absolutely blunt as well it’s a really expensive event to put on, which takes about 70% of the events budget, and there is that cost element.

“We’ve got to manage within the budget that we have for events and widen that out and also try that different range of events.”

She added whatever way the decision was justified “it would have been seen as an excuse” by some.

Council officers stressed moving forward they would be taking the views of residents and councillors around what free events for families they would like to see come forward.

Conservative Councillor Usman Ali, Ryhope ward representative, said it is important they come up with ideas which support local businesses.

He said: “We need to think of something that can replace the airshow that is still going to benefit small businesses.

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“I just think there’s so many things we could do on the seafront now with the Stack there and so many things coming out.”

Liberal Democrat Councillor Heather Fagan had also raised concerns over the cancellation of the event, and had asked if possibilities had been looked at in terms of holding it on a reduced scale.

She said: “I think people are absolutely devastated to be honest, that really did raise the profile of the city. It’s one of the few free good things that we have on.”

Stephen Savage, council assistant director of regulatory services, said it would likely cost the council “£600,000-£700,000 if it ran again” and would still be “probably two thirds as expensive” to mobilise for one day.

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He said: “The vendor is taking a risk on the weather, and on spend and on profit, you couldn’t de-risk it [for a shorter airshow].

“The airshow doesn’t help carbon neutrality by 2030, so it’s a mixture of carbon neutrality, risk and cost.”

He added if the council had done the air show there would be “very little money” left as part of the events budget.

Labour’s Councillor Michael Mordey asked if council officers had received many comments from residents raising concerns over the decision.

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He said: “Any change is difficult, when you’ve had something for 30 odd years, it becomes an institution.

“When it’s taken away there is a reaction, but I accept the reasons why, particularly around the carbon developments.”

Mr Savage said he “had not been inundated” with concerns, but noted they could have gone elsewhere.

Councillors noted an online petition to “reinstate” the airshow has been created, attracting more than 1,500 signatures to date.