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GILBRIDGE POLICE STATION: Demolition of cell block approved

GILBRIDGE POLICE STATION: Demolition of cell block approved

Image: LDRS

Plans to demolish the cell block at Sunderland’s former police HQ have been given the green light as part of a major regeneration project.

The Gilbridge Police Station lies close to Keel Square and the ongoing Riverside Sunderland development and has been empty since Northumbria Police moved out in 2015.

Proposals to turn the building into a business hub and offices were recently revealed as part of a multi-million pound scheme from North East developer, The Hanro Group.

As part of the private sector investment, plans were lodged with Sunderland City Council in February 2021 to demolish the cell block building attached to the former police station.

As the building sits adjacent to the Grade II-listed Magistrates’ Court, a raft of documents were submitted on behalf of applicant Hanro Limited to give assurances to city planners.

This included measures to preserve and enhance ‘affected heritage assets’ and a detailed method statement for the planned demolition.

After considering all submissions, Sunderland City Council’s planning department approved the demolition scheme in April, 2021.

Planners said the applicant had submitted a “thorough analysis of the significance of the building and the adjacent conservation area” and noted the demolition plans would satisfy council policies.

A decision report went on to say: “The applicant has presented a heritage statement that identifies the relevant assets in the immediate vicinity, weighs the possible harm resulting from the works to the historic properties and makes a judgement based on sound evidence.

“The proposed works have been well considered and address relevant areas of potential concern.

“The proposal to demolish the cell block is therefore considered to be acceptable subject to the provision of appropriate conditions regarding the demolition and with regard to allowing for the inspection and agreement of remedial measures, post-demolition.”

According to a heritage impact assessment from the applicant, the second stage of the project will include “external alterations to Gilbridge [Police] Station to update and improve its appearance as well as landscaping works.”

Details will be included in a planning application and will aim to “reinforce [the former police station’s] historic connection with the Magistrates’ Court and the new Keel Square.”

When the entire development is completed, the former cell block site will be replaced with surface parking and the main police building will be retained as offices.

The range of suites planned within the refurbished building also aim to attract small and medium sized-businesses.

The heritage statement adds: “While the loss of the cell block will remove its legibility as former detention cells, the works are a necessary component in securing the long-term future of the main police station building, giving an appropriate new use consistent with its conservation.”

For more information on the demolition application, visit Sunderland City Council’s planning portal and search reference: 21/00405/LB4

Words: Chris Binding, Local Democracy Reporter

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