Sunderland’s seaside is – for many Wearsiders – the jewel in the crown of the city.
And with a multi-million pounds programme set to transform prime, largely-unused land into a vibrant mixed use site, Wear Business speaks to Sunderland City Council leader Graeme Miller to find out what residents can expect.
Sea, sand and sometimes sun… the first two are guaranteed at Sunderland’s seaside resorts of Roker and Seaburn. The third, well…
“When we do get the sun, it’s pretty spectacular,” says council leader Graeme Miller, who – when lockdown measures are lifted – will once again be a regular at Seaburn and Roker, breathing in the salty sea air on a weekend.
“Me and my family absolutely love the coastline. It’s easy to take it for granted when it is on your doorstep but it really is a special place,” says the Leith-born leader, who moved to the city 30 years ago and started a family.
With a grown-up son and daughter, Cllr Miller has fond family memories of the city’s coast and – as work continues to transform the twin resorts of Roker and Seaburn – Graeme is proud of how the plans are progressing.
“You’ve just got to look at how Pier Point has completely transformed the area to see how much untapped potential the city’s coastal resorts have,” he says.
“Marine Walk is now home to a whole host of eclectic independent businesses attracting hundreds of people to Roker every day – and their success is just breeding more and more confidence. Plans were submitted for the extension of Pier Point – which will provide yet more leisure space for the seafront – and along the road at Seaburn the seafront will undergo a transformation, with millions of pounds being put into venues that will reimagine the area.”
Central to the investment in Seaburn is the construction of STACK, a £2.5m container village, which is well underway on the site of the former Seaburn Centre and will house a host of independent restaurants, retailers, street food vendors and bars, creating approximately 150 jobs.
While work has stalled due to Covid-19, Graeme looks forward to the site springing back to life, with a view to opening over the coming months.
Adjacent to STACK, on the site of the former Pullman Lodge, work has also begun on The Seaburn Inn, a new 40-bedroom pub with rooms being built by multi-award-winning The Inn Collection Group.
The inn with rooms, which will include an outdoor family play area for customers to enjoy, is the latest development from North East headquartered Inn Collection Group, which also has inns in Blyth, Amble, The Lake District and Bamburgh.
And peppered along the coastline stand a number of under-used and historic buildings, which are also set to be transformed with more than £800k committed to bring them back into use.
Plans will see a former toilet block at Roker, along with the former Bay Shelter and the old tram shelter at Seaburn, transformed into cafés and restaurants, and 12 beach huts will also be added along the seafront.
This will build on stunning landscaping works undertaken within the last decade, which saw new sculptures and public art added to the promenade to create a more attractive seafront vista.
There are also plans for upgrades to the infrastructure of Seaburn Camp to make it better for touring caravans.
However, Graeme is keen to point out that the latest tranche of investment isn’t solely leisure-driven.
Working shoulder-to-shoulder with the council’s chief executive, Patrick Melia, who spearheaded the regeneration of Whitley Bay and its historic Spanish City, the plans will also see significant investment pumped into the development of new communities and improving the lives of existing residents.
He added: “Patrick’s experience of rejuvenating coastal areas is second-to-none and I fully share his ambition to continue improving our stunning coastline.
“While Pier Point, STACK and The Seaburn Inn will undoubtedly improve the area’s leisure offering – we are also aware of the need for more homes for residents – which is why investing in our communities plays such a huge role in the city’s masterplan.”
Work by Miller Homes to construct 64 new homes at South Bents is already underway and plans from Avant Homes North East were also approved, which will see a further 85 homes built on Lowry Road, behind the STACK development. Graeme is confident that, over the next two years, the seafront will be completely transformed as a result of this prolonged investment.
“Over the last 20 years, a lot has been made of the UK’s ailing seaside towns and communities, however we believe the redevelopment of Roker and Seaburn will significantly buck this trend. This investment – coupled with the development of Riverside Sunderland – will mark the beginning of a new era for Sunderland.
“It’s an exciting time for everyone associated with the city and it fills me with immense pride to be at the head of the party driving this charge.”