Developing Consensus was delighted to host its first meeting following its conference in the Mayor’s Parlour at Sunderland’s stunning new City Hall.

Featuring incredible views of the city’s transforming skyline, we followed up with the man at the helm of city development at the council, Peter McIntyre, to learn more about the £2bn regeneration programme underway in Sunderland.  

A transformation and regeneration blueprint, Sunderland’s City Plan has already seen the area make key strides forward in becoming an internationally recognised smart city.

The next year is a pivotal time for the area with a number of our landmark developments reaching completion and playing their part in truly transforming our city.

Our flagship Riverside Sunderland development, one of the most ambitious regeneration projects in the country, will continue to renew and refocus our city centre with the area transformed into a sustainable new urban quarter. This project is a key catalyst in redefining our city and putting Sunderland firmly on the map as a world-class place to live, work and play.

Projects across Riverside Sunderland are rapidly advancing.  Just metres from City Hall, a building awarded the best UK office development by the BCO, stand two fast-developing buildings, Maker and Faber, part of Legal & General’s £100m investment in the area.  They will provide sustainable office space for a range of businesses, with RSA having already signed up to relocate its 400-strong team.  A new pedestrian and cycling street bridge will connect these buildings to Sheepfolds, where work is underway on Sheepfolds Stables, a stunning new leisure hub as well as British Esports’ North East Performance Arena, where elite esports players will train and compete. It will stand alongside the Housing Innovation Construction Skills Academy (HICSA), a state of the art learning environment where young people from the city will learn about modern methods of construction.  

To the west of City Hall, a super-sustainable neighbourhood is taking shape, with 1,000 new homes, in all,  planned across Riverside Sunderland; while to the south of City Hall, Culture House will deliver an incredible new place to explore, with inspiring exhibitions and interactive spaces that will engage people of all ages.  

It’s a development that is changing Sunderland’s city centre beyond all recognition, with Riverside Sunderland named the UK’s best future place in recognition of the scale of ambition of this transformational project. 

The culmination of all this will see the city host Expo Sunderland, starting in 2024, a festival of live events happening across Riverside Sunderland with activities, entertainment and pop-ups alongside global household names exhibiting their innovative future living concepts.

Other notable developments taking shape across the city include: the development of a £450m new gigafactory as part of a £1bn investment to create Nissan EV 36Zero, an EV hub supported by the council as well as national Government, which will be based at the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) – a 150-hectare site in Washington.  A stone’s throw away, a £60m new industrial base – Hilthorn Business Park – is under development, underpinning the city’s success in advanced manufacturing, engineering and logistics.  And new industries are set to take shape too, with proposals for a £450m film studio on the banks of the River Wear, to the west of Riverside Sunderland, having been unveiled earlier this year.  With so much development, it’s unsurprising that Sunderland is readying itself for a population boost, with 7,000 new homes set to be built across Sunderland in the ten years to 2030.

With so many developments on track, the need for improved connectivity only increases, which is why we are delighted that the £26m Sunderland Train Station upgrade will reflect the forward-thinking approach of our city and offer a large glass wrap around design featuring retail and hospitality space to welcome our growing number of visitors. 

Sunderland has also been granted £6m from the UK government to build and trial a self-driving shuttle service to the University of Sunderland and the Sunderland Royal Hospital, once again a nod to our future living credentials and a fantastic project to demonstrate our Smart City capabilities.

As we transform the city, with investors having come to the table, Sunderland now has the high-quality spaces needed to grow its business base.  As the city reinvents itself, the next step is to ensure that the business community recognises this change, and that Sunderland maximises the opportunities that will emerge from its enhanced reputation.  We’re ready to shout about our successes and reposition the city, with confidence and belief that is fuelled by delivery against our ambitious plans.

The success we have seen is all down to our commercial acumen, a strategic and collaborative approach from our leadership which is manifest in our endless passion for our city and the vision we have for it.  There is a real commitment and drive to deliver in Sunderland, and it is that energy and vigour that is spurring us on, in partnership with the private sector.

Over the next few years, we’re confident Sunderland will be changing perceptions, attracting global attention and be a case study for large-scale regeneration projects. Watch this space.