A £60m regeneration deal has been unveiled which could pave the way for the creation of 1,600 Sunderland jobs.
Legal & General has joined forces with Sunderland City Council to pledge the huge investment to trigger the transformation of the 25 hectare Hillthorn Park site in Washington into a manufacturing hub aimed at supercharging the local economy.
The investment, made on behalf of its Industrial Property Investment Fund, comes less than a year after more than £100m was ploughed into the former Vaux brewery site – now called Riverside Sunderland – where new offices, housing and leisure schemes are transforming the former industrial site into an unrivalled place to live and work.
It means Legal & General now has a combined investment of £160m in Sunderland, its biggest commitment to any North East area.
The new plans replace previous proposals to develop a waste-to-energy site at Hillthorn Park and form a focal part of the city and region’s Covid-19 recovery plan.
The scheme will see the creation of a two-phased development plan, subject to planning approval and driven forward by Legal & General, to serve up 620,000 sq ft of industrial space over nine new commercial buildings.
Each development will be funded, procured and delivered by Legal & General, with a completion date set for 2024, before being marketed to a range of companies who will create hundreds of new jobs for local people.
Designed to support the needs of industrial, storage and distribution businesses in the area and boost economic growth, it also complements the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), which is gathering pace just a stone’s throw away.
Coun Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a tremendous step forward in our strategy to supercharge the city economy and a massive vote of confidence from Legal & General that will rapidly accelerate our plans for Hillthorn Park.
“We listen to our residents and this deal reflects that. We have worked with partners to ensure that this site is developed in a way that creates the greatest economic advantage for the city, and this is a deal that will deliver new job opportunities for local people and attract more businesses to Sunderland.
“It is yet another phenomenal investment deal for the city that will see Hillthorn Park developed into an economic driving force.”
Paul Edwards, director of asset management at LGIM Real Assets said: “As a business, we have a strong track record of working in closely with local councils and communities to invest in and deliver important infrastructure and regeneration which responds to the needs of the local area, and which enables long term job creation.
“We believe that these latest plans will transform the Hilthorn Park area in terms of creating jobs which will be essential for the local economy in the post COVID-19 recovery phase.”
Pumping £60m into the plan will ramp up the transformation of the Washington site, part of which has already been designated Enterprise Zone status, identified by the Government and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in 2012 as key locations for new economic development.
The status brought with it major investment, through funding from central government, the North East LEP and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in new infrastructure and enabling works, to ensure the rapid delivery of the development.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said: “The announcement that the planning application for an incineration plant at Hillthorn Park has been withdrawn is to be welcomed.
“This announcement follows years of campaigning and effort by the local community and campaign groups who delivered leaflets, gathered thousands of signatures and attended public meetings to ask pressing questions to figures of authority.
“I have been proud to campaign alongside, and represent in Parliament, passionate and knowledgeable groups like UKWIN, No Monster Incinerator in Washington and Washington and Wearside Against Gasification Group.
“I am pleased that in place of the incineration plant, a new regeneration scheme will be delivered, in which Legal & General have agreed a deal with Sunderland City Council to invest £60m. At a time when our region is suffering due to the economic shock from the Coronavirus pandemic, this investment is fantastic news.
‘’Welcomed by local businesses and educational leaders, this development is expected to create 1,600 new jobs and nine new commercial buildings that will be built by 2024. As with all major developments, I will monitor progress closely – and be sure to represent any concerns constituents may have as we move forward.”
Helen Golightly, chief executive of the North East LEP, said: “Hillthorn Park is ideally situated, with the infrastructure and connections in place to enable this exciting new development to hit the ground running and in turn attract more businesses to the North East. As the North East works together to grow its economy after the impact of COVID-19, and we continue to take steps towards achieving our goal of creating 100,000 more and better jobs, the news of another Legal & General’s investment in the region is a welcome boost.”
News of the latest commitment from Legal & General has been welcomed by business leaders.
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Ellen Thinnesen, chair of Sunderland Business Partnership and chief executive of Education Partnership North East, said: “This is another fantastic development for Sunderland; another huge boost for the economy and importantly, a deal that will create jobs and opportunities for hundreds of people and businesses from the city.
“The pace of change in Sunderland is phenomenal and this is yet another reason to be positive about the future.
James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “Sunderland’s transformation continues apace. This is the latest in a long line of positive announcements that is very much welcome in the context of a challenging time for the UK economy.
“The North East has an abundance of talent, and despite the uncertainty following the Covid-19 pandemic, we can look forward to more businesses recognising this vast potential and creating more jobs and opportunities for local people.”
Sir David Bell KCB, Vice-Chancellor and chief executive of the University of Sunderland said: “This exciting new development in Washington is further evidence that the City of Sunderland is going places. Increasing business confidence is being matched with a much more optimistic view of our prospects as a city, despite all that is happened in recent months. The University of Sunderland is proud to be part of these positive developments and looks forward to working with Legal and General and other partners in the future.”