Plans for new Next store on Sunderland’s former Crowtree site set for thumbs-up

Artist's impression of the new Bridges extension.
Artist's impression of the new Bridges extension.
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Plans for a massive new Next store on the former Crowtree leisure centre site are set to get the green light from planning bosses.

An extraordinary meeting of the city council’s development control (Sunderland south) sub-committee will discuss the plans for the 45,000 sq ft, two-storey store at 3.45pm next Tuesday, October 4.

The former Crowtree leisure centre site between High Street West and Crowtree Road

The former Crowtree leisure centre site between High Street West and Crowtree Road

An extension to The Bridges has been on the cards since council chiefs announced plans to demolish the aging Crowtree Leisure Centre in February 2013.

The plan was to demolish the High Street West end of the building from the dividing walkway north, with only the sections above the Crowtree Road Bridges extension retained, opening up the area between the back of the building and Sunderland Minster.

Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association threw its weight behind the plans to redevelop the land: “The Crowtree site is a key location with great potential to support the growth of the city centre,” said spokesman Giles McCourt.

“While the decline and subsequent closure of Crowtree was a great loss to the city centre, we must move with the times and look to the future.

This land represents an excellent opportunity to expand the centre and provide Next with their requirements, whilst assisting with the public realm improvements proposed in this part of the city.

Committee report

“Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association fully supports the council’s decision to redevelop the site, even the proposal to landscape the area in the short term has to be an improvement. The location is a prime spot for expanding the retail and leisure, so is likely to attract interest from investors and developers.”

An artist’s impression of the development was revealed in October, but Sunderland Civic Society was not impressed: “The current scheme will not allow for the future development of the land between the proposed store and High Street West,” said a spokesman.

“This is important, as there could be a significant need for future additional floorspace and to create a shopping frontage along the whole of Crowtree Road which will link to Keel Square and the Vaux site, as well as (hopefully) attracting more shoppers to the western end of High Street West.”

The report to next week’s committee says the plan is the best option for satisfying Next’s desirte to move to bigger premises in Sunderland: “Due to the location of the centre, being surrounded on the north, east and southern sides by smaller ‘high street’ retail units there is limited opportunity to expand the existing shopping centre in those locations to provide a sufficiently large format store for the requirements of Next.

Public consultation on the former Crowtree site plans

Public consultation on the former Crowtree site plans

“Following the demolition of the swimming pool section of the Crowtree Leisure Centre, an area of land is, however, available to the north west corner of the shopping centre, adjacent to where the centre meets Crowtree Road.

“This land represents an excellent opportunity to expand the centre and provide Next with their requirements, whilst assisting with the public realm improvements proposed in this part of the city.”