Plans to transform a heritage landmark in Sunderland are full steam ahead after a listed building application that pave the way for new life to be breathed into it were given the green light.
The Seaburn Tram Shelter, one of three historic buildings being revamped as part of a £850,000 investment from Sunderland City Council and The Coastal Communities Fund, had been earmarked for transformation for some time, with plans brought forward by East Boldon’s award winning Blacks Corner, to create a new delicatessen that will be sympathetic to the history of the shelter, while creating an attractive addition to the seaside offer.
Now the listed building application – required given the shelter’s Grade II status – has been approved, the transformation of the shelter can begin, with the team from Blacks Corner set to work with the local community to understand how they can contribute to the plans for the important community asset, ensuring it becomes a real focal point and meeting place for residents of – and visitors to – Seaburn.
In their Listed Building application, the team at Blacks Corner – which champions local and home-grown British farm produce through its menu of cheese and charcuterie – set out plans to undertake a series of sensitive restoration works to the fish-scale roof; the cast iron columns; rainwater goods; and the existing timber frames.
The plans will also enclose the tram shelter by replicating the details and proportions of the existing building, with plans including a delicatessen, an accessible WC, kitchen and servery counter.
Blacks Corner already operates a high-quality eatery and wine bar in South Tyneside, that is a cornerstone of the Boldon community.
The company was revealed as the preferred occupier of the Seaburn Tram Shelter earlier this year, after the council confirmed it planned to revamp the building as part of a wider seaside regeneration scheme that will also see a former toilet block and bay shelter brought back into use.
Councillor Kevin Johnston, dynamic city cabinet member, said: “Our heritage buildings are important parts of our seaside and we want to preserve the best parts of them, but return them to a modern-day use that will ensure that Seaburn and Roker grow their reputation as attractive places to visit and enjoy.
“I’m delighted that can now happen, with approval of the listed building application, which was the final step towards a bright new future for this important building.”
He added: “Roker was recently recognised as ‘an exemplar of coastal regeneration’ by The Times, and building on that with further regeneration of heritage buildings like the Tram Shelter, the former Roker Toilet Block on Pier View and the Bay Shelter at Seaburn, will only enhance that. It’s brilliant news for the seaside.”
The Blacks Corner team were required to submit the Listed Building consent application to secure agreement to make the changes to the building that will restore it into use, although the change of use of the building to an eatery had already been agreed by the council’s Planning Committee.
The income from the lease – which was agreed with the support of Sunderland based commercial property surveyors, Lofthouse and Partners – will support the Sunderland Seafront Trust, which operates the Roker Pier and Lighthouse tours, and the new income will help it to organise a range of seafront events and activities.
Speaking at a committee meeting, as he set out plans for the building, co-founder of Blacks Corner, Jonathan Dryden, said: “This shelter is surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country.
“We want to encourage guests to explore our coast and bring that environment into our considered design.
“We want to give the city somewhere that is striving for a Rosette Rating for its use of British produce, a genuine Sunderland first. A genuinely amazing space.
“The Tram Shelter will pave the way for the formation of the Sunderland Seafront Trust – a real community asset that guarantees a future for the Tram Shelter and the other beautiful heritage buildings of Seaburn and Roker.
“We are very uniquely able to provide a complete turnkey project, from design, to build, to operation – and if Blacks Corner isn’t here in 100 years’ time, the building will be safe in the hands of the Trust, complete with a restoration that will last another 100 years after that.”
The conversion of the old heritage building is part of a wider programme of transformation at Seaburn and Roker, with Sunderland City Council having spent more than £10m on seafront regeneration and improvements over recent years.
The programme includes award-winning environmental and street-scene enhancements helping attract developments such as at Seaburn Stack, the Seaburn Inn and a host of new businesses to Marine Walk.
It’s a key part of the wider transformation of the city, including the city centre, which is attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of investment into Riverside Sunderland.