Sunderland should be 'more than a day trip from Newcastle' says city's top Tory

The former Vaux site in Sunderland
The former Vaux site in Sunderland
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Sunderland needs to be ‘more than a day trip from Newcastle in travel guides’ according to the city’s top Tory

That is the view of Councillor Robert Oliver, leader of the city's Conservatives.

Coun Robert Oliver

Coun Robert Oliver

His comments come after recent remarks from the newly-elected leader of the Labour-controlled city council, Coun Graeme Miller, who told the Echo how he wanted to hear from the public about what they would like to see take shape on the former Vaux site, adding that "a city does not stand still".

Back in January, regeneration work on the site was halted after the collapse of construction giant Carillion. In March, the council and development partner Siglion said new tenders had been issued.

But Coun Oliver believes the site has become "an emblem for stuttering regeneration" on Wearside.

He told the Echo: "Setting out his stall as the new leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Graeme Miller said that ‘a city does not stand still’, but to many residents that has been the problem in recent years, giving rise to frustration at a local level.

The Northern Spire bridge, due to open this summer.

The Northern Spire bridge, due to open this summer.

"Sunderland should be a vibrant and modern city taking opportunities for growth and redeveloping its natural assets such as a wonderful coastline and a city centre full of potential with people who are eager to move forward.

"Unfortunately the city has not progressed like its regional neighbours with too many missed opportunities whilst Newcastle is named the top place to visit this year by Rough Guides for its offer of events, nightlife and buildings.

"Sunderland has great potential, but more needs to be done to bring the city centre back to life and create an environment attractive to visitors and residents so the city is more than a day trip from Newcastle in travel guides.

"The Vaux site has become an emblem for stuttering regeneration, lying empty after more than a decade, the prime site in the city centre which should be bustling is vacant along with a city centre that needs new life breathing into it."

Coun Oliver also insisted that the Government deserved credit for key projects that have been delivered in Sunderland, highlighting such developments as the new Northern Spire Bridge, due to open this summer.

He added: "Despite this, there have been many encouraging developments in the city in recent years most notably the Northern Spire Bridge and road link from Nissan to the port and the improvements along the Roker seafront and pier.

"The political point to be made here is that much of this has been funded by the national government: £82.5m in funding the bridge and road; £2million to regenerate Marine Walk and £20million for the purchase of the Vaux site.

"But the best news in recent years has been the establishment of a new medical school based at the university: a real game changer in terms of moving Sunderland forward with highly skilled people made on Wearside.

"With help available, there is no excuse for the stalemate at the Vaux site especially as the local economy is the sixth-fastest growing this year-outpacing Newcastle-along with more than £1.5billion in investment.

"Residents will certainly want to respond to the council leader’s invitation to have their say on what can go on the Vaux site though they will also demand leadership and activity from those elected to decide and quickly too.

"Whether it is a relocated civic centre, new businesses or retail, the key is to get more people into the city centre working and living with a landmark commercial development to act as a magnet for more and better shops."