Sunderland set for 4,000-capacity music venue to rival Newcastle’s O2 Academy

Kenny Sanger, from The Bunker on Stockton Road, Sunderland
Kenny Sanger, from The Bunker on Stockton Road, Sunderland
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A 4,000-capacity music venue could be created in Sunderland as part of ambitious plans for the area around the Stadium of Light.

The live venue – twice the size of the Academy in Newcastle – would be housed in the proposed Beacon of Light sports complex on a floating floor above a purpose-built 3G pitch in a 12,500 sq metre sports hall.

An outline planning application submitted by the Foundation of Light will be considered by Sunderland City Council’s North development control committee on Tuesday.

A temporary stage and audio-visual equipment would be put in place when the 51 by 93 metre hall is not used for sports. It would be supported by a three-storey front of house area, with a foyer, comprising of a reception and ticket office and merchandise sales area. Parking for up to six articulated vehicles would be accommodated at the rear.

Dave Harper, drummer with Wearside band Frankie and the Heartstrings, today welcomed the plans.

He said: “People have been shouting for a venue like this for years in Sunderland.

“It will give the city something that it hasn’t had before. There’s no other venue near here that would take 4,000.

“The only comparable venue in the north would be the Apollo in Manchester. It fills a gap in the market and it would mean acts don’t have to go to another city.”

Kenny Sanger, director at The Bunker music studio in Stockton Road, said: “We don’t currently have a venue that size in the city. We have the Empire and, although it’s a great venue, it’s built more for shows.

“There is North Shore and The Independent and then there is the Stadium of Light. We don’t have anything now in between. So, if the right people get behind it to attract the right promoters and the right artists, it could be a big success.”

The Beacon of Light will act as the new base for the Foundation of Light and will have offices, lecture space and flexible ICT classrooms.

The sports and leisure facilities also include external pitches, viewing areas, changing rooms and a bar and lounge area, as well as a further four flexible spaces for hire and community activities as well as first aid and treatment rooms.

Foundation of Light CEO Lesley Spuhler said: “The Beacon of Light will have the capability to host music events that will help fund the maintenance and upkeep of the venue, allowing the longevity of education and sport programmes that run there.

“Our vision has always been to create a community hub where people can come together and enrich their lives, and live music will be a part of that.”

A recommendation to approve or refuse planning permission has not yet been given and a further report will be made available to the committee before the meeting at the civic centre.

The report concludes: “It is considered that the proposal is an acceptable form of development in principle, however, before a recommendation can be made, further information is required in respect of ecology and flood risk.”