Public Consultation Launched for Films Studios in Sunderland: The biggest investment in the region since Nissan

30 June 2023

A ONCE in a generation development that could bring more than 8,000 jobs to the North East, has taken a step forward as public consultation gets underway, paving the way for a planning application later this summer. 

FulwellCain Studios, a joint venture between Cain International and entertainment company Fulwell73, the company behind The Kardashians, Friends: the Reunion, and Sunderland Til I Die – with strategic partner Sunderland City Council - announced plans earlier this year to deliver Crown Works Studios, one of the largest filmmaking complexes in Europe, creating some 8,450 jobs across the North East over the next decade.  Plans are now moving to public consultation, with planning specialist Lichfields collating feedback that will inform a full planning application for the 154,215 sq. m (1.66m sq. ft.) site. 

If they go ahead, the studios will spearhead a new UK creative industries hub in the North East, housing 19 premium sound stages, offices, workshops, a vendor village, and an extensive backlot. This state-of-the-art creative hub will provide the infrastructure needed to support the biggest blockbuster productions, as well as smaller scale projects. 

Described by city leaders as ‘the single most significant development announcement to come out of the North East in decades’, Crown Works Studios would stand on land on a prominent – currently disused - brownfield site on the banks of the River Wear, and would be transformational for the city’s economy, providing a shot in the arm for UK Plc too. Planners and Sunderland City Council believe the studios will cultivate an eco-system on a scale not seen since Nissan’s investment in Sunderland in the 1980s, while meeting the growing demand for studio space in the UK. 

Lichfields is seeking the views of local people and stakeholders on the plans via a digital consultation, which is live until June 23 at  Those wishing to comment can also view exhibition boards at City Hall, Plater Way, Sunderland between 14th to 23rd June 2023.  Alternatively, feedback can be emailed to [email protected] by 30th June.

The scheme – which requires support from Government to go ahead - will be delivered in three phases, with work set to start in 2023 and the final phase set to complete by 2027. 

Leo Pearlman, partner of Fulwell 73, saidFulwell is a company built on family and the North East is embedded in our DNA.  For over 100 years my family had a business here in Sunderland and called this great City home and I really believe in the opportunities for the screen industry to invest in our beloved North East region.  Through delivering the studios, we will create a long-term production industry infrastructure, contributing to the local economy in the North East, attract even more significant high-end production to the UK and ensuring that future generations of North Eastern talent with all skill sets can develop and prosper at home within the region.”

The move comes amid a number of major regeneration schemes currently underway on Wearside, including the 33-hectare Riverside Sunderland site. The scheme could generate £336m for the local economy every year, including jobs and contract opportunities spanning a vast range of disciplines including the trades and manual skills. The total value of UK screen production rose to £5.6bn in 2021, generating an estimated 118,000 jobs in the UK. It is forecast to rise to £7.5bn by 2025.

Lynda Newsome, associate director at the Lichfields Newcastle office, said: “This is a prestigious project that will create thousands of jobs, economic prosperity and put the region on the map as an international centre for broadcast and film production. It also heralds the continued dramatic transformation of Sunderland’s Riverside area, so we are extremely keen to hear the views of as many local people and stakeholders as possible before final plans are submitted.”

Boosting the North East’s position as a vibrant centre for the creative and visual arts, the ambitious plans are expected to deliver a huge contribution to the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda through the creation of the largest studio film complex outside of London and the South East.

The project is supported by Sunderland City Council, which has brought together a number of key partners to work with the investors to shape plans including around the development of the skills base needed to support the scheme.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The public’s reaction to the initial announcement was incredible.  I think people in the city recognise very clearly this development’s potential to totally transform our economy – and the way in which this will deliver a shot in the arm for the whole of the North East.

We’re looking forward to gathering feedback from residents over the next few weeks, that will feed into a full planning application which will pave the way for delivery subject to Government support.”

A full planning application will be submitted to Sunderland City Council later this summer, with onsite construction expected to start as early as 2024.