Construction of the first phase of a £80m industrial development is underway in Sunderland.

Legal & General-backed Hillthorn Business Park in Washington is on-track with GMI Construction Group poised to deliver the first tranche of buildings – seven of ten that will eventually stand on the site when it is fully developed – set to be completed by November.

The work is part of a two-phased plan to deliver 620,000 sq ft of industrial and advanced manufacturing space close to Nissan and is expected to create 1,600 new jobs in Sunderland.

The development is being funded, procured and delivered by Legal & General’s Industrial Property Investment Fund, and is already being marketed to a range of occupiers.

It represents the institutional investor’s second commitment in Sunderland, with £100m currently being ploughed into Riverside Sunderland.

Designed to support the needs of industrial, advanced manufacturing, storage and distribution businesses in the area and aid economic growth, Hillthorn complements the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), which is gathering pace just a stone’s throw away, and Turbine Business Park, which is also the chosen location of a range of advanced manufacturing businesses.

Collectively, the sites will position Sunderland at the heart of advanced manufacturing in the UK.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “I’m so pleased to see Hillthorn Business Park moving forward.

“This is a strategically significant site, that is superbly positioned and will ensure that the city unlocks its potential as a hub for advanced manufacturing.

“It builds on the fantastic relationship we have formed with Legal & General and will allow us to create many more high quality jobs for local people, and opportunities for local businesses as we move through the construction phase of this project.”

The buildings are taking shape to the west of the 25-hectare site.

Gary Oates, GMI Construction Group’s North East operations director, said: “We are delighted to have been appointed as principal contractor on a project that is designed to bring jobs and prosperity to the area by creating the necessary facilities and infrastructure.

“We are also committed to maximising the benefit to the local economy by using local suppliers and subcontractors whenever possible.

“GMI already has a track record of delivering high quality and complex projects across the region, including the nearby Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (CESAM) and phases I and III of the adjacent distribution centres operated by logistics provider Vantec Europe.”

Hillthorn Business Park is an allocated employment site, which means that it has been earmarked for development for some time.

Legal & General’s Industrial Property Investment Fund’s proposals will accelerate 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 site’s status as an Enterprise Zone 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, which will enable the rapid delivery of the development.

The business park will sit alongside the existing Vantec operation which has been on site since 2016.

Paul Edwards, Head of Asset Management for Legal & General Investment Management Real Assets, said: “Sunderland is a city undergoing rapid transformation and we’re delighted to be playing a role in accelerating that, through investments like this that will deliver more and better jobs for the area, stimulating more investment in the city.”

The news follows a huge boost for Sunderland’s advanced manufacturing sector, with a £1bn plan for a new EV Hub and gigafactory, a partnership between Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK, Envision AESC and Sunderland City Council.

Andrew Moffat CBE, Chair of the Investment Board at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The 21 Enterprise Zone sites across the region that make up the wider North East Enterprise Zone have been chosen because they are strategically located next to growing areas of industry that can improve the economic competitiveness of the region.

“Hillthorne Business Park’s proximity to the International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) and Turbine Business Park makes it a very attractive investment opportunity for businesses looking to enter the North East’s thriving advanced manufacturing sector.

“Enterprise Zones provide the right environment for both new and existing firms to scaleup and grow their operations, helping to boost the local economy and create more and better jobs for people across the region.”

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