Sunderland's former Gilbridge police station set to become gym and buzzing business hub after plans approved

A former police station in the heart of Sunderland is set to be revived as a state-of-the-art business centre – including plans for a gym – after a decision by planning chiefs.

Thursday, 2nd September 2021, 5:50 pm

As part of its multi-million pound proposal, the North East developer submitted details on a project to convert the site into modern flexible office spaces.

This included a complete refurbishment, both internally and externally, to transform the concrete-clad building into a business hub aimed at small and medium-sized firms.

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Ambitious plans have been approved for the former police station

A full planning application for the scheme from The Hanro Group was lodged with Sunderland City Council’s planning department and validated in early July this year.

Following consultation, the plans were given the seal of approval on August 23 2021.

A decision report prepared by council planners outlined the benefits of the scheme, from bringing a vacant building back into use to boosting regeneration efforts across the city.

It reads: “The proposal will importantly secure the building's future for a beneficial use, assist in sustaining and enhancing the character and appearance of Bishopwearmouth Conservation Area, and make a positive contribution to the economic renaissance of the Minster Quarter and wider regeneration of the city centre.

“Further, it is not considered that the proposal would be detrimental to the amenity of the local area, highway safety or the ecological value of the site.”

Planning permission was previously granted in February 2018 to change the use of the police station to a 'mixed commercial development' - however the council report stated "this consent has now lapsed."

The new change of use will secure Grade A office space throughout the building and the provision of a gym in the basement, alongside additional works.

These include the formation of a new car park, upgrade works to the facade of the building and associated landscape improvements around the site.

The council planning report goes on to say: “The submission sets out that the proposals seek to transform the building into vibrant much needed new office space for established and emerging digital companies and continue the reinvigoration of Sunderland City Centre.

“The submission also qualifies that the development will reactivate this corner of Keel Square and strengthen the links between the adjacent Keel Square, Vaux redevelopment site and the Music, Arts and Culture Quarter.”

The report also noted that no objections had been submitted by the council's conservation team, who saw the application as a "coherent response to the large-scale regeneration happening in the area."

According to planning documents, the main police station was constructed in 1972 and is "characterised by its brutalist design features and built form with large expanses of exposed pre-cast concrete evident on all elevations."

The new office development is expected to include a total of 42 parking spaces, including two accessible spaces and four electric vehicle charging spaces, as well as 31 cycle spaces in the building's basement.

A separate planning application linked to the project was also approved earlier this year to demolish the cell block building attached to the former police station.

When the entire development is completed, the former cell block site is expected to be replaced with surface parking.

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