Sunderland seafront could be transformed with new cafes, restaurants and beach huts

An artist's impression of how the former Bay Shelter at Seaburn could look as a cafe or restaurant.
An artist's impression of how the former Bay Shelter at Seaburn could look as a cafe or restaurant.
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New cafes, restaurants and beach huts could be created on Sunderland’s seafront after being given the go-ahead by councillors.

Last year, major regeneration plans were unveiled, aiming to give a new lease of life to several buildings in Seaburn and Roker.

An artist's impression of how the former Bay Shelter at Seaburn could look as a cafe or restaurant.

An artist's impression of how the former Bay Shelter at Seaburn could look as a cafe or restaurant.

The proposals are part of a stage two bid to the Coastal Communities Fund and are dependent on this being successful.

On January 17, Sunderland City Council’s Development Control North Sub-Committee rubber-stamped plans linked to the bid.

They include:

• Converting the Pier View toilet block at Roker and the former bay shelter into cafes or restaurants.

• Cafe plans for the Victorian tram shelter in Whitburn Road.

• Building 12 beach huts on the promenade north of the Fat Buddha at Seaburn.

If the plans go ahead, the facilities will be managed by the Sunderland Seafront Trust – the governing body for the Roker Heritage Group, whose volunteers run the popular Roker Pier and Lighthouse tours.

At the meeting at Sunderland Civic Centre this week, planning officers said the proposals are not expected to affect species in the area, with designs aiming to be sympathetic to the history of the buildings.

When completed, the beach huts will be available to rent through a booking system operated by the Sunderland Seaburn Trust.

And extra safety measures, including an ‘evacuation strategy’, will be drafted for the huts after a request from the Environment Agency (EA).

While welcoming the scheme, councillors quizzed officers on how the leisure facilities would work in practice.

Coun Denny Wilson called for assurances that the process would prevent block booking and be available for the public to rent.

Coun Niall Hodson stressed the huts should be physically accessible for everyone, and called for conditions to make sure the booking system reflects this.

And Coun Bob Francis also questioned whether the bay shelter had enough protection from potential storm damage.

“The dune sands are within 2ft of the front of that building, and in a winter storm the sand is right up to it,” he said.

“From time to time, pebbles the size of cricket balls and a bit bigger amass on the beach, and those can be thrown up by the tide and storms at the building.

“There is no natural protection there, we have to think of the consequences of that.”

While the bay shelter isn’t listed as a flood risk zone under EA guidance, planning officers said the issue around the bay shelter would be taken into account.

New ‘give way’ markings will introduced on the coast following concerns about pedestrians having to stand on a busy cycle lane while waiting for buses.

Cabinet member for housing and regeneration on the council, Coun Stuart Porthouse, welcomed the scheme.

“We have a deadline to get this submitted, and if it hasn’t got a planning application it doesn’t go ahead,” he said.

“I think it’s good to see that members here support this and support this additional investment in Roker and Seaburn.

“Let’s just hope it is successful.”

Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service