Developers asked to look at Bridges expansion

FURTHER growth at The Bridges Shopping Centre in Sunderland may see the centre extended on to the Crowtree Leisure Centre site.

The Bridges shopping centre in Sunderland

FURTHER growth at The Bridges Shopping Centre in Sunderland may see the centre extended on to the Crowtree Leisure Centre site.

The Bridges occupies 515,000sq ft of shops in the heart of the city, served by two car parks for more than 940 cars. Now, after the success of phase two of the centre which opened in 2000, owner Land Securities has been asked by Sunderland City Council to look at growing further.

The proposed scheme would see a substantial mixed used development to include leisure, catering, retail and residential uses up to a further 215,000sq ft – expanding the existing floor area by around 40%.

The council is aiming to close the Crowtree leisure facilities when the city’s new Aquatic Centre opens next year, on a site next to the Stadium of Light, south of the River Wear.

The Bridges, with half a million shoppers per week – the highest shopping centre footfall in the region – this year saw lettings of prime shop space to high profile tenants such as HSBC, Esquires, Select, Envy and Woodbridge Fine Furnishings.

Gerald Jennings, Land Securities’ portfolio director for the North and Scotland, said: “We are very excited at being invited to submit a proposal that would see a substantial step change in the development of The Bridges and offer an even wider range of shopping for the people of Sunderland.

“There’s an awful lot happening in Sunderland, with £2bn of regeneration in the city, with a vision to become the UK’s most liveable city, and we enjoy being part of that.

“We will also continue to seek other ways to improve our existing holdings in the North-East, and remain keen to investigate new development and investment opportunities.”

The news came as Land Securities unveiled its annual financial results which showed the company outperforming its peers, but still suffering a big drop in pre-tax profits for the last financial year, down to £375.2m from £1.2bn in 2006.

The London-based company, which also owns Retail World on Team Valley in Gateshead, is about to undergo a major restructuring.

The company which operates in three sectors – retail, offices and property in London – will demerge these sub-sectors into three separate specialised companies.

Chief executive Francis Salway, said: “We have three strong businesses, all performing extremely well. However, our board is committed to remaining at the forefront of an evolving property sector and recognised the need to test our current business structure. We have considered the issues carefully with a focus on the long-term.”

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