Plans for a multi-million pound research and development centre for the production of green transport have been given the go-ahead, thanks to a new planning process that cuts red tape and costs for businesses.
Gateshead College’s new International Centre for Low Carbon Vehicle Development, based beside the Nissan Sunderland site, is set to open next year, after gaining planning approval.
The innovative facility is believed to be one of the first such developments to be passed under the new Local Development Order (LDO), designed to fast-track applications that fit in with the surrounding site.
Managed by low-carbon technology company, Zero Carbon Futures, it will be occupied by businesses involved in research and training in the low-carbon vehicle industry, and will act as a hub for new product development.
Programme manager for the centre, Jo Morrissey said: “Using the LDO has made a real difference to how quickly we were able get things moving with our new R&D Centre.
“The whole process was much faster and easier than the usual planning procedures, and means we can step up our efforts to put the North East at the forefront of low-carbon vehicle technology.
“This growing sector has the potential to be a major industry for the region and our new centre will play a key part in developing the greener vehicles of the future.”
Under the terms of the new LDO, businesses seeking approval for developments do not have to pay a planning fee and submissions are determined within 28 days, rather than the usual 13 weeks.
The new process is being used on two of three Wearside sites within the North East Enterprise Zone, set up by public-private collaboration, the Local Enterprise Partnership.
The council is believed to be one of the first local authorities in the UK to use the tool, originally established by the 1990 Town & Country Planning Act, in this way, to help businesses’ low-carbon vehicle development and advanced manufacturing.
Based at Nissan’s former Design Centre, a 2,000 sq m facility at Barmston Court, the centre is in the A19 Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Enterprise Zone beside Turbine Park.
Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Paul Watson said: “Introducing the LDO is a great incentive for new and existing businesses considering Sunderland as a location.
“It provides an extra reason for investors to look at our low-carbon Enterprise Zones at the Turbine Park and Vehicle Test Centre, where there are already incentives in place to attract new industries.
“Sunderland prides itself on being a city that’s doing everything it can to bring in new business and create jobs.”
Our new centre will play a key part in developing the greener vehicles of the future