Demands for a public debate on the future of Sunderland city centre will be put to city leaders next week.
Council bosses will be asked to discuss the condition of the city centre compared to other towns and cities, and pledge to bring forward plans to “breathe new life into it”.
Members of Sunderland City Council’s opposition Conservative group will use Wednesday’s full council meeting to present a motion on the issue.
Group leader Coun Robert Oliver said despite pressure from online shopping and out-of-town centres, there is “still room for vibrant city centres if they can adapt to modern times”.
“The state of Sunderland’s city centre is one of the biggest issues in the city, with residents often saying that it lags behind other towns and cities, fails to compete with the Metrocentre, and needs to get going this year with ambitious plans from the council,” he said.
“Places like Stockton-on-Tees have bucked the trend by redesigning their town centres, with a distinctive history and heritage offer boosting visitor numbers and helping retailers.
“With the government launching a multi-million-pound Future High Streets Fund to help, now is the time for Sunderland’s city centre to get moving again and start to compete with our neighbours.
“Places like the Metrocentre offer eating, drinking, entertainment and free parking, and we need more of this if Sunderland is to survive and prosper as a destination for people in the region.”
Other ideas from the group include boosting house building in the city centre, converting retail units into housing, bringing historic buildings back into use, and providing an improved leisure offer.
Coun Oliver added: “The city centre may need to be smaller in future, but it’s more important that it’s vibrant than large, with people coming in for events, restaurants, cafes and shopping.
“The Conservative group has long argued that we need to offer more convenient parking, with free parking in the evening as well as better leisure facilities to attract families.
“With the demise of the Crowtree Leisure Centre there is a need for a landmark attraction to bring visitors, especially families, into the city centre, where they can use leisure facilities.”
Councillors will debate the motion at a full council meeting at Sunderland Civic Centre, which starts at 6pm.
Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporting Service