1000 new homes, 10,000 new jobs and a transformed city centre for Sunderland, plan promises

12 October 2020

A transformational masterplan that will reinvent the heart of Sunderland has been released today. 

The Riverside Sunderland Masterplan, which sets out a detailed blueprint for the regeneration of a key city centre quarter with sweeping views across the river, has been unveiled by Sunderland City Council. 

Describing Riverside Sunderland as ‘the most exciting regeneration site in Britain’, the masterplan – a 176-page document that captures a number of ground-breaking projects to reimagine this part of the city – sets out how the council will kick-start the rebirth of a 33.2 hectare site on both sides of the River Wear, creating the UK’s first carbon-neutral urban quarter, building 1,000 new homes and creating office space for up to 10,000 workers.

The plan, which has been developed by the council working with a world-class team of regeneration and built-environment specialists, will reinvigorate the city centre, bringing new residents, workers and visitors to the heart of Sunderland, helping to support traders by day and night.

Underpinned by a £100m investment commitment from Legal & General – part of their combined £160m pledge to this and one other site in the city – the masterplan will create a spectacular city centre destination – a place to live, work and play. 

The key features of the masterplan include: 

  • 1,000 sustainable homes to rent and buy, in four stunning riverside neighbourhoods housing 2,500 residents
  • One million sq ft of modern office space, in a new central business district, providing 8-10,000 new jobs
  • a new city centre site for a major life sciences/ healthcare facility
  • Plans for a state-of-the-art library and community hub – the Culture House - that will attract 600,000 visitors a year to a new site in Keel Square
  • The upgrading of St Mary’s Boulevard into a stylish new main street, and the construction of new connectivity for walkers and cyclists across the River Wear
  • Transformation of Galley’s Gill into a superb landscape park, and new green spaces in the heart of the city
  • Smart City infrastructure, that will make Sunderland an even better place to live, work and play.

In 2023, Riverside Sunderland will host the month-long Expo Sunderland, a high-profile event which will showcase life in the new urban quarter.  UK and international visitors will be drawn to the first of the new neighbourhoods on the former Vaux Brewery site.

“Riverside Sunderland will transform a part of the city that has vast potential.  It’s a masterplan that will reinvigorate the city in a wider sense too – creating a place we can be proud to call the heart of Sunderland,” said Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council. 

“It’s a vision that we know is deliverable, and that will be truly game-changing for Sunderland. We’re aiming high because it’s what our residents deserve and it’s what the city needs – vision backed by a determination to deliver.”

The leader said the plan would revitalise the whole city, breathing new life into the city centre, and putting Sunderland on the map as an exciting place to live, work and play.

“Riverside Sunderland is just the beginning.  Sunderland is springing back to life.  We’re seeing more and more investment flooding into the city.  The private sector is alive to the opportunities and that is bringing about transformation at a pace not seen for decades.

“This will be a ‘magnet city’.  Aspirational families will move here.  Corporates will see this as a place they want to do business – and their people will spend money in the city centre stimulating new jobs and business growth.  Visitors will come to enjoy our unique offer – riverside, seaside and city centre.  We will attract people – we will reinvent the heart of Sunderland and send a message that this is the place to be,” added Cllr Miller.

“The masterplan is our blueprint for the development of Sunderland, and we’re very proud to be driving it.”

Sunderland City Council’s bold and ambitious plans is already underway, with the first wave of projects moving forward, including the construction of new City Hall, and the 450-seat Auditorium, part of the Fire Station arts complex. Work will start soon on the 120-room Holiday Inn in Keel Square and a planning application has been lodged for two new buildings in the central business district that will create 200,000 sq ft of modern office space.

The Riverside Sunderland masterplan has been backed by business leaders from across Sunderland and the North East.

Adam Serfontein, managing director of The Hanro Group - who are investing in Gilbridge Police Station, converting it into an office facility – said: “We’re very excited about this development.  Gilbridge will be the fifth acquisition that the Group has made in and around Sunderland over the course of the last four years. 

“And what particularly excites us about this, is that it is a natural consequence of the investments that Sunderland City Council have made, alongside Legal & General and other partners in the city.  What differentiates this area is that it is really comprehensively thought through, in terms of the relationship between office space, space for people to live, space for people to enjoy.  It all gels together really very well.”

James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce (NEECC), said: “Right now, the North East of England provides huge opportunities for businesses wishing to invest, with great transport links by sea and air, road and rail to all parts of the United Kingdom and indeed around the rest of the world.

“Sunderland in particular offers the most wonderful space in which to create a business.  With new cultural venues, with improved transport links with a great sporting tradition, it offers a quality of life for all.  But now, particularly with the Riverside development, the investments by Legal & General and others, providing office space living accommodation and so much more, I encourage everybody to take a fresh look at what the city of Sunderland really is capable of providing any ambitious business.”

Allison Thompson, who has a consultancy – Ashmore Consulting – which is based in the city centre, said: “This masterplan will not only create a place people who live here can be really proud of, it will attract new businesses and visitors to Sunderland and actually write a different narrative about the city.  And it’s not just the city centre, but how it then begins to connect and the rest of the city-region. 

“Sunderland has some incredible assets, that have been massively underplayed -  we have an amazing river, marina and coast.  I think the difference now is it has all been connected back into the city centre so it will actually feel like a city, and not just a town.”

Sharon Appleby, head of business operations at Sunderland Business Improvement District, said: “I think the news around the Riverside Sunderland masterplan is just fantastic.  It's very, very exciting news for the city.

“It's brilliant to see things really taking shape on that site already, never mind the new things that are coming.  The office buildings will make a huge difference to the city centre with the number of people working here who will make their way into the heart of Sunderland.  Also the plans and the real ambition for more people to live in the city centre is fantastic - we need that, so that we can help the economy throughout the whole day and into the evening.  And from a connectivity point of view, it's brilliant to be able to connect the two sides of the river together, with some really good quality development on the other side of the Wear actually connecting back into the city centre.  That will be really positive for all of the businesses that operate in the city centre.”

To read the full Masterplan, and to keep up to date with the latest developments on Riverside Sunderland, visit www.riversidesunderland.com or search @Riversidesund on social media.