Multi-million pound retail and arena development which could have brought 375 jobs to Sunderland is rejected

Roseberry Lesuire group's Mike Roseberry outside Rainton Meadows Arena.
Roseberry Lesuire group's Mike Roseberry outside Rainton Meadows Arena.
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Plans for a multi-million pound retail and arena development which could have brought 375 jobs to Sunderland have been rejected by planners.

Proposals had been submitted by Roseberry Leisure to build a new state-of-the-art 1,400 capacity venue to replace the current outdated Rainton Meadows Arena in Houghton as well as a retail park.

The city is crying out for a bigger venue or it will lose out to places like Newcastle

Mike Roseberry

However, the £18million plans will never come to fruition after the Hetton, Houghton and Washington Development Control Sub-Committee agreed with officers that the development would do more harm than good.

It means that supermarket chain Aldi, Home Bargains, Pets at Home and Costa, which had already committed to units, will now have to rethink their future investment.

Councillors on the committee, which met at Sunderland Civic Centre last night, heard from officers how the development would both damage plans for a retail development on the former Houghton colliery site as well as move footfall away from the town centre.

Mike Roseberry told members his family has owned and operated Rainton Meadows Arena – which was originally built as an indoor cricket venue – for 35 years.

He called the opportunity to rebuild it “unique” and “once in a lifetime”.

Mr Roseberry said: “It would deliver investment and jobs straight away.

“The city is crying out for a bigger venue or it will lose out to places like Newcastle.

“A new arena would open that area up to blue-chip companies, major music and sporting events, and would be a huge boost to Sunderland.”

He said his plans could not be compared to the proposals for the Colliery site, and denied that his company could afford to redevelop the arena without the income generated from an adjacent retail park.

He added: “It’s £2.5million in building money which can only come from the proposed retail development. Without retail I can’t build a new arena.”

Mr Roseberry thanked those who had written to the council to support the application, as people with placards packed the public gallery of the chamber.

Simon Hawkins, development director of Urban and Civic, which has been chosen as the council’s preferred developer for the Colliery site, said: “There is a limited number of retailers for the Houghton-le-Spring area and were are talking about the same developers.

“The fact is, if the Rainton Meadows scheme goes forward, it would seriously undermine our ability to bring forward the Houghton Colliery site.”

Members unanimously voted to reject the application.