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Sunderland's Norfolk Hotel, which played role in SAFC's history, set for new future after years in the doldrums

A former city centre hotel could be revived as an arts hub and community venue under new proposals submitted to council planners.

By Chris Binding
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 2:32 pm

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The Norfolk Hotel, pictured in 2015.
The Norfolk Hotel, pictured in 2015.

Sunderland City Council’s planning department recently received an application for the Norfolk Hotel at 34 Norfolk Street.

The building, which played a central role in the formation of Sunderland AFC, was previously acquired by the council as part of its regeneration plans.

This included reimagining it as a place that would have a “positive role in Sunniside’s development”.

The blue plaque where Sunderland SAFC was formed. It later became the Norfolk Hotel.

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The red brick building was once home to the British Day School playing host to a meeting of local school teachers in 1879 which would lead to the formation of Sunderland AFC, originally known as Sunderland and District Teachers’ Association.

The building was built in two parts, the first in the late 1800s and the entrance in 1900 and was converted into a hotel and later, a hostel.

New plans aim to change the use of the building from a hostel planning class to a range of uses for potential future tenants.

According to the planning listing, spaces for artist studios, creative workspace, offices, retail, a cafe, craft workshops, wellbeing and fitness classes are proposed.

In addition, proposed uses include spaces for the voluntary and community sector including charities and community groups, as well as spaces for education, community workshops and engagement.

The planning application also proposes roof repair works, including conservation rooflights to the southern wing.

A heritage statement submitted with the planning application states the building “requires work to restore its functionality and historical significance.”

Proposed floor plans for the Norfolk Hotel site show uses across four floors, with storage in the basement and other uses spread across rooms on the ground, first and second floors.

During consultation on the plans, a number of council departments have given positive feedback on the planning application.

The council’s planning policy team said the plans meet the aims of a policy which aims to “encourage the continued development of the Sunniside area as a lively, mixed-use, urban quarter with a high-quality physical environment”.

A consultation statement from the council’s conservation team adds: “The proposals are supported […] as they will help to secure the long-term conservation of an important group of historic buildings and provide them with a sustainable future through their sympathetic re-use.

“The proposals will in turn have an enhancing impact on the character and vibrancy of the Sunniside Conservation Area and support the area’s wider regeneration.”

A decision on the planning application is expected to be made later this year, once council consultation and notice periods have concluded.

Councillor Linda Williams, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for Vibrant City, said the plans would provide a boost to the city’s cultural sector.

Cllr Williams said: “As part of the city council’s ongoing commitment to the regeneration of the Sunniside area, it is currently progressing the disposal of its interest in the Norfolk Hotel.

“This will support the ambition for growth of the city’s cultural sector while securing best value for council tax payers.”

For more information on the planning application or to track its progress, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal and search reference: 22/00361/FUL