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Review of plans for Sunderland seafront after fears of overdevelopment

Sunderland seafront
Sunderland seafront
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Councillors have backed a motion agreeing to listen to residents views over the future of leisure and housing on Sunderland’s seafront.

On Wednesday, Sunderland City Council’s opposition Conservative group launched a debate on the risk of new developments squeezing out leisure facilities and green spaces.

Public concerns had previously been raised about a new bid for 64 homes off South Bents Avenue – with more than 400 objections – alongside plans for a range of pop-up attractions from cinemas to cycle hubs.

Conservative group leader on the council, Coun Robert Oliver, speaking at Sunderland Civic Centre, said it was the “right time” to have the debate due the number of planning applications for the seafront.

“We’re about to see the demolition of the Seaburn Centre which of course signifies the end of leisure, the building and the hope that it will one day be replaced by something of substance,” he said.

“We all want the seafront to be the jewel in the crown for the city of Sunderland.

“This is a motion that is not just concerned with the people of Seaburn and Roker but of course throughout the seafront and the city because it’s for everyone.”

He added: “We do need to be mindful going into the future on our seafront, that we have development but not overdevelopment.”

Developer Siglion, which is also working on the city centre Vaux site, also has plans to build homes in Seaburn.

Coun George Howe accused the developer of “disappearing from the radar” in its consultation with residents and asked for clarity on their vision for Seaburn as a “leisure-led development”.

He added green spaces improve quality of life and wellbeing and that house-building in such areas is “tantamount to vandalism on a massive scale.”

Deputy leader of SCC, Michael Mordey, said council bosses would undertake a “deep dive” review of plans for the seafront to reach a point where they’re  “acceptable for everyone”.

“The people who live there rightly have a say and commitment to the area but  the seafront is for everyone in the city,” he said.

“I think we have to get the balance between the housing and the leisure right.”

Cabinet member for housing and regeneration, Coun Stuart Porthouse, also outlined the history of council and developer consultations with residents between 2009 to the present day.

He added that the council can’t stop private landowners selling sites for development and that the public and councillors should not be “misled” on what the council “can do and can’t do” on planning applications.

Currently, the council measure individual applications on their own merits against national policies, the meeting heard.

Leader of the council’s Liberal Democrats group, Coun Niall Hodson, also raised concerns about neighbouring authorities “poaching people who work in Sunderland to live in developments in those areas.”

“I worry that Sunderland is not tackling the root of the issue, we can build the houses but we lack the infrastructure, we lack the cultural and social opportunities in the city centre, we lack the leisure facilities,” he said.

Following debate, an amendment to the motion was carried by cabinet secretary, Coun Paul Stewart, due to the implications it would have on planning committees in its original form.

Changes to the wording stated the council would “take appropriate account” of residents’ views rather than “agree” with them.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service