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Gavin Cordwell-Smith, chief executive of Hellens Group and Cllr Kevin Johnston, ward councillor for Copt Hill and deputy portfolio holder for Dynamic City.

Houghton Colliery poised to strike retail deal

Plans are moving forward for a significant new development in Houghton. 

A major supermarket operator is expected to be unveiled as the anchor tenant on the former Houghton Colliery site, and a popular retail operator is also thought to be exploring options to take space on the site, which is being brought forward by Washington-based Hellens Group. 

The Colliery had stood empty for 40 years when Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet agreed to sell it in 2019 to the Hellens Group and Fintry Estates, in a move that has paved the way for £15m retail scheme development.  It is hoped that the addition of major occupiers will help to draw people back into the area and support existing shops and businesses in Houghton. 

As well as plans for a retail park, proposals for a permanent sculpture, that will pay homage to the area’s mining heritage have also been revealed, with the artist behind Seaham’s famous ‘Tommy’ – Ray Lonsdale – having been commissioned using Coalfield Area Committee funding released by Sunderland City Council’s Copt Hill councillors, along with councillors from the three other ward in the Coalfields.

Councillor Kevin Johnston, who is a ward councillor for Copt Hill and deputy portfolio holder for Dynamic City, said: “We are absolutely thrilled that plans are moving forward at Houghton Colliery a site we absolutely wanted to see developed.  It was a good deal, that not only allowed us to secure a competitive value for the land, but will bring much-needed investment in the area, creating jobs and prosperity and making use of a site that has stood empty for a long time.

“The addition too of a stunning piece of artwork that will celebrate the rich history of this site is something we are delighted to have been able to bring forward too. 

“This will provide an everlasting tribute to the miners and their families who worked at Houghton Colliery, and will be a real community focal point.  It’s something everyone in Houghton can get behind and be proud of, and it will act as an attraction, bringing people into Houghton and onto Newbottle Street.

“It is fitting that the sculpture will also now contribute to the economic heartbeat of our historic town centre, alongside a development that will breathe new life into the town centre.

“It’s been fantastic to play a part in moving forward plans for the area, as part of the Dynamic City portfolio and I’m absolutely thrilled - as a Houghton-born-and-bred lad - that we have been able to secure not only a bright future for the site, but to also deliver a fitting celebration of our mining past.”

The site will see the development of almost 39,000 sq ft (3,600 sq m) of new retail space in all, and is expected to create hundreds of new jobs. 

Gavin Cordwell-Smith, chief executive of Hellens Group, said: “Our Houghton Colliery development will breathe new life into the town and its economy, creating an attractive retail destination and jobs for local people in the process.  We are pleased that conversations with occupiers are progressing so positively, and hope to be in a position soon, to announce the anchor tenants, that will form the core of the offer of the site.”