Station H: Plans press ahead for £4million business and culture centre in former Sunderland police station

Plans to transform Sunderland's former city centre police station into a £4million business and culture hub have taken the next step.

Wednesday, 7th February 2018, 5:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 7th February 2018, 6:20 am
Charlie Hoult outside the former Gilbridge police station in Sunderland.

Charlie Hoult wants to turn the former Gilbridge Police Station off St Mary’s Way into Station H, which will feature office and space for events.

Sunderland City Council, which bought the building in 2016, has now submitted a change of use application to its planners, setting out the proposals.

Charlie Hoult outside the former Gilbridge Police Station in St Mary's Way, which is set to become Station H, should a change of use be approved.

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They include details of its “comprehensive refurbishment” to set up work spaces and commercial and creative tenants, turning the empty four-storey building into a base for Sunderland’s “emerging Cultural Quarter.”

It notes its prominent gateway location in the city and how close it is to the neighbouring magistrates’ court and Vaux site, nearby bars, Empire Theatre and Fire Station music and arts building, which will feature a 450-seat auditorium.

The application sets out a flexible range of uses to maximise its potential from the start and also includes an application so that a street vendor can trade in the rear yard, possibly once a week or for occasions.

Around 200 people could be based in the office space in Station H, which could be made even easier to reach under council plans to lengthen Garden Place, which runs between the Empire and the Dun Cow pub, to join up with Livingstone Road.

Charlie Hoult outside the former Gilbridge Police Station in St Mary's Way, which is set to become Station H, should a change of use be approved.

Mr Hoult, who also runs Hoults Yard in Newcastle, said: “We aim to recreate the same supportive and creative environment at Station H that has long existed at Hoults Yard where our eclectic mix of businesses has created a genuine community.

“There’ll be some great spaces available, but our tenants will also have some fun too - at Hoults Yard we go far beyond being a business centre by creating a community vibe through Food Fridays, live music, live screenings, coffee mornings and charity fundraising.

“We’re looking to complement what’s already on offer in Sunderland and have been impressed by Sunderland City Council’s readiness to do business.

“We’ll be welcoming a wide range of tenants to Station H and have already started giving tours to prospective clients.

The application says: “This approach also addresses the Minster Quarter Masterplan’s aspiration to deliver a mix of uses across the area, which will facilitate the area’s growth as a destination for creative and cultural activity, generate footfall and grow the evening economy.

“The focus on creative occupiers is regarded as complimentary to the future redevelopment of the Vaux site, offering the opportunity to host occupiers with bespoke accommodation requirements, which are unlikely to be available within the new office spaces being brought forward at Vaux.”

It adds no external changes are proposed to the building, which was built in 1972, and the application will not harm the listed buildings nearby or the conservation area and also raises the fact it would bring an empty unit back into use.

Hoults have signed an exclusivity deal with the council and has already appointed a project manager to oversee the conversion of the station and cells.

The name Station H comes from a coded police reference from when officers signed off for home.

Anyone interested in signing up for a space in the building can email [email protected].