New £8.2million landmark arts and entertainment complex set to be approved for Sunderland city centre

An artist's impression from Ainsworth Spark Associates showing how the Old Fire Station in High Street West might look like.
An artist's impression from Ainsworth Spark Associates showing how the Old Fire Station in High Street West might look like.
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A planning application to create a multi-million-pound arts and entertainment venue in Sunderland’s historic theatre quarter is expected to be given the go-ahead this week.

The £8.2million arts and entertainment complex, proposed by the Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust which will form the centrepiece of a new cultural quarter in the city

It will be a landmark venue of which the city can be proud

Paul Callaghan

The MAC Trust’s full planning application to create an auditorium with outdoor performance space and open space on land at Dun Cow Street and Garden Place, will be heard by Sunderland City Council’s Development Control (South Sunderland)

Sub-Committee.

The application relates to a hard surfaced site, which wraps around the north rear, and west side elevations of the Edwardian former Central Fire Station.

The 450-seat venue will have retractable seating and will also be able to host more than 700 people standing.

The site currently accommodates private car parking, with gated access from Garden Place.

Paul Callaghan, from the MAC Trust, said previously: “It will be a landmark venue of which the city can be proud, presenting local, regional, national and international artists to local audiences.”

The award-winning architect behind the design of the auditorium is Jason Flanagan, who was project director for the iconic Sage building in Gateshead and is currently leading the Wembley Theatre scheme.

His other work includes the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.

“Jason has been responsible for the design of some of the UK’s key contemporary cultural landmarks and our auditorium would certainly have the wow factor,” Paul added.

Work has already begun on the £3million transformation of the Old Fire Station off High Street West into a restaurant, cafe, heritage centre and dance and drama studio, permission for which was granted last September.

After standing empty for more than 24 years, it will become the Wearside base for regional dance organisation Dance City, while Live Theatre will also have a Sunderland base in the new cultural hub.

The application will be heard at 4pm, on Thursday, in Committee Room 2, at Sunderland Civic Centre.

Officers have recommended the committee approves the plans, subject to conditions, and the satisfactory resolution of an outstanding drainage issue.