SUNDERLAND COUNCIL: Five key decisions from latest cabinet meeting
Sunderland City Council’s cabinet met on Tuesday (March 23) to vote on a number of key decisions.
The lengthy agenda had a strong focus on regeneration, with funding agreed for several major projects aiming to transform the city centre.
Other topics included investment into roads and bridges , refreshing a public spaces protection order for the city and selling the council’s ageing civic centre site to allow for future housing development.
Here are some of the key points you may have missed.
Future High Streets Fund Programme
Sunderland City Council was recently announced as one of two applicants to receive the maximum £25 million available from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF).
This week, council chiefs approved the FHSF programme for the city which totals nearly £44 million – including the Government grant, around £18 million of council match funding, other public grants and some private investment.
Key projects in the programme include a new leisure-led development on the former Crowtree site, a city library and community hub ‘the Culture House’ at Keel Square and commercial units on the ground floor of the new Keel Square Hotel.
Other projects include improving crossing facilities between the city centre and former Vaux site at St Mary’s Boulevard and the restoration and conversion of the Elephant Tea Rooms building at Fawcett Street to create commercial units and apartments.
The Local Studies Centre, which is based at the building, is expected to be relocated to the new Culture House once it is completed.
Civic Centre site to be sold to allow housing development
In recent months, the council has been advertising its current civic centre site for sale, with several housing developers showing interest.
The buildings will be vacated by Sunderland City Council later this year when staff move to the new City Hall on the former Vaux site.
On Tuesday, council chiefs agreed to dispose the council’s freehold interest in the 3.7 hectare site, off Burdon Road, to preferred developer Vistry Partnerships Ltd.
Future proposals for the site include 275 new homes, including 166 houses and 109 apartments, comprising a mix of open market and affordable tenures.
It is expected that the developer will submit a planning application later this year and if approved, the demolition of the civic centre and associated buildings could start in early 2022.
According to a cabinet report, the council will dispose the site “for a price which represents the best consideration reasonably obtainable”.
Public Spaces Protection Order Refresh
Following public consultation, council chiefs agreed to refresh the public spaces protection order (PSPO) for the city for another three years.
The order aims to boost enforcement powers around nuisance and anti-social behaviour, by placing restrictions on activities in public places.
This includes, but is not limited to, street drinking, using psychoactive substances, anti-social motorcycle riding, dog fouling, urinating in public places and ‘bin raking.’
Fines for breaches of the PSPO will also rise to the maximum level allowed, from £75 to £100.
After considering feedback from the public, the cabinet agreed to keep current dog exclusion zones at Sunderland’s beaches the same during the summer months, rather than make any changes.
The signposted exclusion zones, between May 1 and September 30, are not a complete ban on dogs across the beaches and dog owners can still access certain areas.
Investment in highways and transport
Council chiefs confirmed a huge list of highways and maintenance projects for Sunderland this year.
A total of 243 projects are lined up following consultation with councillors and community groups, with works on more cycle paths, 20mph school zones and community parking schemes continuing.
The programme of maintenance includes stretches of Sunderland’s key routes such as the A1231, A183, A690 and dozens of B roads and residential streets.
Bridge works also include the rail and Metro bridges in Tunstall Road, New Durham Road north and south, and rescheduled works to A182 Washington Highway interchange, the A183 Harbour View Bridge in St Peter’s, and the Pallion New Road/Trimdon Street Bridge in Millfield.
The funding allocated for the annual work programme totals some £8.7 million.
Roof repairs for council care hub
Council chiefs were also asked to agree to procure and award a contract for roof renewal works at the Leechmere Centre.
The building is currently occupied by Sunderland Care and Support and is used to support and deliver key social and health care services.
As part of a wider survey of council properties, officers found the building’s roof was in need of essential repairs and that leaks had “caused damage to internal finishes.”
The contract value for repairs is estimated at around £280,000 and aims to provide a life cycle of around 20-30 years.
Words: Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporter
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