WORKS are beginning on a new Minster Quarter Access Road and landscaping improvements to help Sunderland’s growing Minster quarter.

The project is about boosting the city’s established and developing cultural attractions, and improving access for visitors.

Sunderland City council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Regeneration, Councillor Stuart Porthouse said: “The council has a Masterplan to help guide the development of the Minster area. 

“With the continued success of the Sunderland Empire, the new Fire Station development and works due to begin next year for the Sunderland Auditorium, we all recognise the need to improve capacity.

“This is about accommodating more of our city’s current and its future needs.

“The road here is going to help manage the traffic clashes between pedestrians and large vehicles, such as buses, coaches and equipment trucks.

“But, it isn’t just about vehicles as the works allow for environmental upgrades to improve the experience for pedestrians with new paving, planting and landscaping at Garden Place and High Street West.

“Plus, we’ve got enough flexibility in the improvements to link them with planned development, such as the auditorium, and more schemes in the future.

“The council has carried out a comprehensive series of works across the city centre and these are continuing at the Minster Quarter.

“They’re all about improving our city for all residents, visitors, businesses and attracting more investment.”

The council’s Cabinet backed the £1.5m project a year ago, planning permission was granted in April this year, and this first stage of the works is clearing old outbuildings at the former Gilbridge Police Station and building new retaining walls for the access road.

Works on the road, coach waiting area and landscaping will continue through the rest of the year with completion in early 2019. Further landscaping improvements will begin once the road is completed.

Ben Phillips, Theatre Director, Sunderland Empire, said: “This is a very welcome boost to the area. Our iconic theatre is one of Sunderland’s jewels and this work will further enhance the surrounding environment and accessibility for the quarter of a million local, regional and national yearly visitors to the Sunderland Empire.”

The works are all in line with the city’s Minster Quarter Masterplan that set down how the area should have a broad mix of uses including leisure, cultural facilities, cafes, bars and restaurants as well as retail and residential.

Paul Callaghan, Chairman of the Music, Arts and Culture Trust (MAC Trust), said: “The trust is delighted to see the start of this project that is transforming such an important part of our city.

“Creating access and improving the public realm around the Minster, the Empire and the Fire Station is essential in making this an area where the people of Sunderland can enjoy the cultural offer and be proud to welcome visitors to such a vibrant and historic part of the city.

“These works will create a superb public realm and pave the way for the new Fire Station auditorium that will begin construction in the near future.”

Initial works are being carried out by Durham-based MGL Demolition, part of the MGL Group.

Simon Martin, MGL Group Business Development Director, said: “We are delighted Sunderland City Council has chosen MGL Demolition to undertake these important works. We look forward to playing a part in the transformation of this area and to a successful working relationship with the council.”