Memorandum by The City of Sunderland (COA
1.1 The City of Sunderland welcomes the
request via the Coalfield Communities Campaign (CCC) association
to submit evidence to the ODPM Select Committee inquiry into government
policies to regenerate coalfield communities. The Select Committee
inquiry provides a timely opportunity to review the progress and
the vitality of the regeneration process currently taking place
within the Sunderland Coalfield area.
1.2 Sunderland Coalfield area remains blighted
by widespread unemployment, long-term sickness and poverty, over
a decade after the collapse of the mining industry. Although there
have been some positive changes, including environmental improvements,
there has been little progress in achieving large-scale economic
1.3 Sunderland's Coalfield Regeneration
Area consists of four wards within the south of the City of Sunderland,
Eppleton, Hetton, Houghton and Shiney Row. The 2001 population
of this area is nearly 48,000 or 17% of the population of the
City of Sunderland. These wards experience all the characteristics
of coalfield communities in a downward spiral: increases in long
term sickness, early retirement, increased net out migration,
increased net out commuting and localisation of the adjustment
problems leading to pockets of deprivation being concentrated
in particular areas. These issues are coupled with low education
attainments, low income levels, a low entrepreneurial culture,
rising crime rates, declining housing conditions, low accessibility
and problems associated with insularity. The overall quality of
life reflects dissatisfaction with the area within which residents
1.4 Since the closure of many of the collieries,
progress has been made in repairing the damage to these communities.
Job loss lies at the heart of a much wider range of social problems,
which include ill health, poverty and crime. On the 2000 Indices
of Deprivation, Hetton ward falls within the worst 10% of English
deprived wards whilst Houghton, Eppleton and Shiney Row are within
the worst 20%.
2.1 Successful regeneration requires sustained
action across a broad front. The development of the coal mining
communities within Sunderland took over 100 years and their comprehensive
renewal cannot be achieved within a few years. A holistic approach
to economic and social renewal also requires the integrated action
of a range of government departments and agencies. Sunderland,
Durham County and Easington DC have attempted to overcome the
artificial restrictions imposed by administrative boundaries,
through initiatives such as URBAN II, co-ordinated transport schemes
and housing strategies.
2.2 The broad-based approach needs all government
agencies on board. This requires joined-up thinking and delivery
to provide new employment sites and premises, with good transport
links, appropriate package of incentives and business support
so that investing within the coalfield area becomes an attractive
and sound proposition. The workforce needs to be skilled and trained
in order to take up the emerging job opportunities and the need
to raise standards in education within coalfield schools is a
high priority. Improvements to the physical environment are required
through housing investment, physical remediation and the renewal
of community institutions. The Government endorsed this broad-based
approach to renewal in its response to the 1998 Coalfields Taskforce
2.3 The governance of the area of the Northeast
region appears to have been largely ineffective, particularly
within sub-regional working. An example of this is in the apparently
cavalier treatment of the regional coalfield areas by the RDA,
One N-E. The North East Regional Economic Plan 2002, omitted even
after consultation, the key proposal of the local authorities
to make a special case for selective funding for Coalfield areas
within the Economic Plan. This proposal has not been taken on
board by One NE, despite it being identified in the Coalfield
Taskforce Report, Sunderland Coalfield Strategy and Programme
and the East Durham Task Force Strategy and Programme. The ODPM
should be encouraged to issue fresh guidance to the RDA to emphasise
the need to address coalfield regeneration.
2.4 The pace of decline in the traditional
industrial base accelerated, notably during the 1980s and 1990s.
New regeneration strategies underpinned by local partnerships
have been developed to meet the additional challenges resulting
from the collapse of the mining industry. These included:
East Durham Task Force Strategy and
Sunderland Coalfield Strategy and
The Government's Coalfield Task Force recognised
that many collieries were developed in relatively isolated locations;
that better transport infrastructure would help inward investment;
and better accessibility was needed to support a new way of life.
3.1 Acknowledgement is given to the English
Partnerships Coalfield Plan, but within Sunderland there was a
delay of over four years before the inclusion of Lambton Cokeworks
within the Coalfield Programme. This 64 hectare site was the largest
remaining site of industrial dereliction within the North East
of England. The continued presence of this unsightly and highly
contaminated site greatly restricted the regeneration potential
of the Sunderland Coalfield area. Thankfully this site is now
included within the EP Programme and work on the physical remediation
has started. This work is taking place in conjunction with the
development of the Coalfield Regeneration Route, The Central Route,
which is an important element of the strategy for the South Durham
Coalfield area. The Route is a joint initiative between the City
of Sunderland, Durham County and Easington District Councils.
3.2 The Coalfield Regeneration Route is
part of a range of transport proposals designed to address such
issues as opening up employment and housing development opportunities
on a number of brownfield sites, in locations that would otherwise
be unattractive to developers.
3.3 Poor transport infrastructure and the
lack of good quality employment land have hindered meaningful
economic recovery and have frustrated the considerable effort
that has been made to create the necessary conditions for employment
growth. The Coalfield Task Force Report endorsed seven regeneration
road and rail schemes around the country; the Central Route was
part of this submission. The further enhancement of road and rail
schemes, which followed consultation with the member authorities
of the CCC, published a list of nine further schemes, including
the Coalfield Regeneration Route linking the A19 to the A1 (M)
via the A690 in Sunderland, which are priorities for regeneration.
The Route is made up of a number of individual schemes:
The Central Route (Shiney Row to
Hetton Link (Rainton Bridge to Hetton
to Easington Lane).
East Durham Link Road (Easington
Lane to Murton).
Parts of the overall route have already been
built but in isolation and each individual scheme can only address
very localised requirements. The Central Route is the next stage
in developing the Coalfield Regeneration Route.
3.4 Rail Accessre-opening the Leamside
Line. There are very limited rail links in operation in the Sunderland
and East Durham coalfield area for either passenger or freight
use. When the Leamside railway line was mothballed in 1991 a study
began that year to examine its passenger and freight potential.
More recently, this has led to a feasibility study to be undertaken
for the coalfield area to investigate the development of rail
passenger and freight services on both Leamside and Durham Coast,
to assist with the process of reducing social exclusion.
3.5 The Leamside Line has been identified
for reopening as part of proposals to upgrade the East Coast Main
Line (ECML). Phase 2 of the upgrade involves use of the Leamside
Line as part of a diversionary route from Newcastle to Peterborough,
effectively creating four rail lines from London to Newcastle.
This would help to alleviate congestion on the ECML, providing
more paths for both passenger and freight services. In support
of this, the local authorities have developed proposals for new
stations and passenger services. A bid for finance to build the
stations has reached the "Work in Progress" category
whilst the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has given provisional
acceptance for Rail Passenger Partnership funding for passenger
services on the line. The proposed passenger service on the line
would operate half-hourly between Newcastle and Middlesbrough.
New stations would be created at Washington, Fence Houses, Ferryhill
and Durham Belmont.
3.6 Progress on the road and rail schemes
has proved difficult; particularly the low priority given to regeneration
in determining investment in roads. The Department of Transport
should be asked to re-determine its criteria for determining road
and rail investment with a view to giving regeneration needs in
areas like the Coalfields greater weight.
4.1 A key aspect of these initiatives is
the provision of a balanced portfolio of land and premises for
both inward investment and local enterprise, as part of a comprehensive
package for the regeneration of coalfield communities. As emphasised
in the Region's Objective 2 Programme submission for 2000-06,
the availability of a range of industrial sites and premises is
one of the prerequisites for sustaining existing and enabling
new, investment. The proposed Coalfield Regeneration Road will
improve access to employment sites within the area and between
Seaham Port, the A19 and A690 (which links to the A1 (M)).
4.2 Key factors in the current position
with regard to the availability of and demand for land and premises
for business use are:
Around 100ha of derelict land within
the Coalfield area is being reclaimed, notably Lambton and Hawthorn
Coke Works. Clearly these are of central importance to the future
employment prospects of the area. Hawthorn Coke Works site has
the potential to provide around 33 hectares of employment land
in the longer term.
A major private sector development
scheme for mixed retail/leisure at Dalton Flatts on part of the
former Murton Colliery site immediately adjoining the A19, has
been developed. The extensive debate over the scheme, prior to
and during the public inquiry, revealed the clear tension that
exists between the desire to attract new employment opportunities
and concerns over the risks to existing fragile centres. The project
offers the possibility of creating up to 1,000 jobs on the site,
and is therefore of potentially great importance to the employment
prospects of the area.
The quality, as well as the quantity,
of supply in the sub-region has improved significantly over the
last five years, largely as a result of major infrastructure investments
co-ordinated through the regeneration programmes for the East
Durham and Sunderland Coalfields.
Despite concerns about the potentially
distorting effects of EZ designations on the sub-regional property
market, it is significant that Rainton Bridge has continued to
attract inward investment, reflecting its relatively advantageous
location on the A690.
Given the very low levels of entrepreneurship
in the area, it is notable that there are no managed incubator
facilities comparable with those available at the Houghton Enterprise
Centre or the Business Innovation Centre in North Sunderland.
Experience has demonstrated that
infrastructure investment needs to have regard to the importance
of perceived as well as actual accessibility.
Following the collapse of the mining
industry, residents of the area have become progressively more
dependent upon the wider sub-region for employment.
Getting local people into the new
jobs being created; particularly in the Enterprise Zone sites
is a key priority.
The over riding priority within the
area is in completing essential infrastructure links; notably
extending the Coalfield Regeneration Route. This coupled with
environmental improvements would significantly improve the image
of, as well as accessibility to, the area.
4.3 It is important to appreciate that during
the early years of coal mining the villages and townships grew
up around a colliery and work was only a few minutes walk from
home. As some collieries closed, the National Coal Board organised
free transport for miners transferring to others. The loss of
jobs in the mining industry has therefore focused attention on
the need to ensure that people can reach new employment and/or
For those in work in the area there appears
to be a degree of dependence on travel to work by car that reflects:
The relative isolation and peripherality
of the area in relation to key employment locations.
The relatively dispersed nature of
its settlement pattern.
The increasingly dispersed pattern
of employment locations, and the relatively poor access to some
of these by public transport.
The pervasive, but disparate pattern
of shift work that characterises many industries in the sub-region.
4.4 Key features of the current position
relating to the provision of public transport in the area are:
There is no local rail service, either
within the area or readily accessible to it: the nearest train
services are from Seaham and Sunderland (regional and sub-regional
services), and from Durham (inter-city).
Houghton, Hetton, and Easington Lane
have good bus links to Sunderland (via the A690 corridor connecting
with Doxford International Business Park and Sunderland City Centre),
but weak links to the Peterlee industrial estates.
Taxi services, albeit expensive,
are an important component of the local transport system and employment
Community transport provision is
often uncoordinated and lacks integration and brokerage.
Information services and interchange
facilities are of variable quality.
Public transport appears to be regarded
by many in the area as expensive and the cost of fares is an issue.
There is a public perception that
local bus services have been subject to perpetual process of change
since bus deregulation in 1986, and that they are not reliable.
4.5 If there is a perception in some sectors
that the North East region as a whole is peripheral in terms of
road and rail links, and that this is a disincentive to economic
growth, then this is even more apparent within the Sunderland
The area is perceived as being relatively inaccessible
in regional and subregional terms, despite the proximity
of the A19, which provides a vital north-south route from South
East Northumberland to Teesside and to the A1 (M) further south.
The decline of traditional sources of employment and the growth
of a new regional economy has been characterised in the North
East, as elsewhere, by a number of inter-related spatial development
policies and trends that have had a significant impact upon accessibility
from the area. These include:
The location of new development and
employment opportunities away from smaller, outworn industrial
settlements of the kind that characterise the Sunderland Coalfield
A progressive decline in local shopping
and service provision, as key players (such as the larger retailers
and banks) have increasingly focused on the larger urban centres
and certain out-of-centre locations.
The development of strategic growth
corridors (notably along the A1 and A19 trunk roads) and growth
points (including the new town of Washington), which have been
a principal focus for inward investment, development pressure
The last of these three factors has been a central
aspect of spatial planning and economic development policy within
the NorthEast region for over four decades. It has undoubtedly
been central to the region's conversion process. But it has had
the effect of steering much new development away from local movement
corridors (bringing many environmental benefits) but impacting
on the viability of some public transport networks and hence the
level of accessibility enjoyed by those without access to cars.
5.1 Transport has emerged as a major issue
from a research and consultation exercise carried out for the
Sunderland Coalfield Healthy Living submission to the New Opportunities
Fund (The Sunderland Coalfield Healthy Living Report, June 2000).
A key message from this particular local consultation process
was that "transport links are `grossly inadequate' and that
many services are therefore inaccessible". Travel costs were
cited as "excessive" and local demands for subsidised
community transport schemes were strongly articulated and regarded
as pivotal by consultees.
5.2 The study Social Exclusion and the Provision
and Availability of Public Transport (DETR Mobility and Inclusion
Unit, September 2000) examines the links between public transport
and social exclusion in both urban and rural areas. The study
Connections between transport and
social exclusion are particularly marked among unemployed people,
families with young children, young people, older people, and
all those on low (benefit level) incomes.
The four key attributes of "adequate"
public transport are Affordability, Availability, Accessibility
Public transport is not just a means
of accessit has important social, health, economic and
symbolic functions, particularly for communities with relatively
low self-esteem and few services.
A basic "right to mobility"
should be recognised, as a first step in counteracting "transport
In some cases there may be an apparent
conflict with sustainability objectives, reduction of the need
to travel being a current Government strategy to assist sustainability.
However it appears that many socially excluded people need to
travel more, if they are to participate fully in society.
5.3 The main problem is perceived as the
lack of a local job opportunity or service, rather than the absence
of transport. The Local Transport Plans of Sunderland City and
Durham County Councils recognise the need to improve east-west
links, notably between the A19, A182, A690 and the A1 (M). The
key aims are to reduce the relative peripherality of the coalfield,
integrate the area more effectively into the sub-region and, specifically,
provide essential support to the regeneration process by improving
access to, and the perception of, key development sites.
5.4 Transportation ideas outlined in a recent
Government Office for the NorthEast discussion paper "Regional
Governance" reflect a very urban-centric approach to issues.
More attention needs to be focussed on the investigation of public
transport opportunities which may include the potential of improving
(or more correctly re-establishing) east-west rail links between
the coastal towns in the coalfield, Durham and the dales beyond.
6.1 There are 19,900 households in the Sunderland
Coalfield area, concentrated in a linear form of towns and villages
stretching along the A182. 80% of the housing stock is in Council
Tax band "A", that is, under £40,000 in value.
Nearly 30% were borderline in meeting the one or more of the nine
fitness criteria for human habitation. Very few new houses have
been built in the area and some of the proposed housing sites
have been on the local authority housing register for over 10
years. Over 10% of the private sector housing stock were vacant
or void properties and nearly all are terraced or semi-detached.
One of the consequences of job losses through closure of the mines
has been out-migration of economically active population and the
resulting problem of low-demand housing.
6.2 There is an oversupply of public housing,
with problem (former) council housing estates, at the Racecourse,
Forest Holmlands, Broomhill and High Downs estates. This represents
a marked concentration of vacant stock in a small neighbourhood,
which then becomes subject to vandalism, resulting in a decline
in standards in nearby properties and so the cycle continues.
The effects have been so marked, ranging from deterioration in
the fabric of buildings to vandalism in the public realm, to such
an extent that the area is subject to a "Settlement Renewal
Initiative" currently being undertaken by the Sunderland
Housing Group. Within the area over 300 houses have been identified
for clearance through demolition, the majority of which (over
90%) were previously local authority owned. One of these estates,
notably High Downs, has been earmarked for consultancy design
approval, sponsored through EP's Housing Initiative Programme.
ODPM needs to make funding available to address the problems of
low demand for coalfield housing, assessing the scale of the problem
and devising positive measures to alleviate these problems.
6.3 Sunderland falls outside the "pathfinder"
areas identified in the Government's "Sustainable Communities"
housing strategy, so that other strategies have had to be enforced
to improve the standard of housing within the coalfield area.
But any intervention to solve these problems requires public funding.
6.4 A key issue in relation to housing strategy
is stemming out-migration of the Region's population. More research
into the operation of the private sector house builders, who have
been the sole provider of new house building over the past decade,
would benefit from contact with local authorities, who have a
wealth of information and experience to draw on.
7. PHYSICAL AND
7.1 The contraction of the coal industry
left an enormous legacy of coal related dereliction, concentrated
in a few large sites and blighting the communities living nearby.
Substantial progress has been made in reclaiming these sites although
two large sites in the area remain to be reclaimed, at Lambton
and Eppleton (ongoing).
7.2 The dereliction helped to depress the
prospects of economic regeneration in the area and their reclamation
has greatly improved the environment of these communities. However,
most of these sites are poorly located for new economic activity
and most have been returned to "green" after-uses. It
has not therefore been possible to recycle these particular brownfield
industrial land to assist new economic activities with the exception
of Dalton Flatts
7.3 Derelict land remains to be reclaimed
and there has been little new development over the last 10 years.
Demand for land from house building companies remains weak, and
further housing clearances could be envisaged.
7.4 The commercial centres of former mining
settlements are attractive and the best features of the mining
heritage has been protected within the conservation areas and
listed buildings. The worst aspects of the mining industry have
subsequently been cleared creating open spaces and sub regional
recreation centres. The settlement breaks within the urban areas
is a significant feature of the area, and as such need to be maintained
and enhanced. Greater use must be made of "brown field"
sites to accommodate new development and avoid encouraging further
8.1 The Sunderland Coalfield communities
have had a range of policy instruments and funding programmes
available to support the regeneration process.
Objective 2 funding, covering the
whole area, with a focus upon a number of Priority 3 wards, for
Community Economic Development funding.
The RECHAR programme (covering the
Assisted Area Status, the area benefited
from Development Area status until the review, it is eligible
for Tier 2 and Tier 3.
Neighbourhood Renewal Funding, Hetton
ward was identified for increased funding from NRF monies due
to its high position in 2000 IDMS scores.
Local Transport Plan money for Central
Additional English partnership/Regional
Development Agency (ONE North East), TEC and Business Link support
for regeneration projects in various parts of the area.
URBAN II European funding jointly
awarded with Easington DC and Durham CC.
8.2 The vision within the Sunderland Coalfield
Partnership is to create a sustainable future, with new jobs to
replace those lost in traditional industries, a greatly improved
environment and a revived community spirit, thereby enabling the
area to become a better place to live, work and visit.
8.3 The repercussive effects of regenerative
measures upon the wider City of Sunderland area will have an impact
upon the Sunderland Coalfield Regeneration Area. The former Enterprise
Zone created at Doxford Park has attracted 5,000 jobs, which has
had a beneficial effect upon the Coalfield area, the City of Sunderland
and is of regional importance.
8.4 The proposed "Business Growth Zones"
replicate only a small part of the former EZ package, even though
a central proposal of the 1998 Coalfield Task Force was that there
should be successor to the Enterprise Zones. The EZ's in surrounding
areas, notably in Easington DC and within the urban area of Sunderland
have attracted thousands of new jobs. There has been little "boundary
hopping" and in fact partnership arrangements between the
local authority areas have developed.
8.5 A case for a successor to the present
Enterprise Zone regime within specific coalfield areas would greatly
benefit, not only the immediate area but, as shown by Doxford
Park and Hylton Riverside (both within Sunderland), they have
a wider beneficial effect upon the sub regional economy. The new
"Enterprise Areas" being brought forward by the Government
offer some assistance to the very smallest businesses, but of
little value to the inward investor and are no real replacement.
9.1 Despite being home to around 5% of the
British population and nearly 20% of Sunderland's population,
coalfield areas remain marginalised. A decade after their economic,
social and cultural life was brought to an abrupt halt by mining
closures, they continue to be characterised by high unemployment,
long-term sickness and poverty. Government and other initiatives
have had a partial and uneven effect in transforming the Sunderland
Coalfield area. Little progress has been made in rebuilding the
productive capacity around new industries.
9.2 The main issues, which directly affect
the Sunderland coalfield area, can be summarised in the following
Successful regeneration requires
sustained action across a broad front. A holistic approach to
economic and social renewal requires the integrated action of
a range of Government Departments and Agencies.
The ODPM should be encouraged to
issue fresh guidance to the RDA to emphasise the need to address
The Department of Transport should
be asked to re-determine its criteria for determining road and
rail investment with a view to giving regeneration needs in areas
like the coalfields greater weight.
The provision of public sector support
to industrial and commercial property development in the coalfields
needs to be maintained and strengthened.
The call for a successor to the present
EZ regime should be supported.
ODPM should be encouraged to make
funding available to address low demand coalfield housing.
9.3 Coalfield areas remain in continuing
need of strong support from national and EU programmes for social
and economic regeneration. Although Sunderland is not unique in
its problems, these are mirrored regionally and nationally, it
is important that national policies and funding arrangements help
support local people and agencies in releasing their creativity
and talents in creating sustainable communities, sustainable transport
and sustainable employment prospects for our coalfield communities.
9.4 The City of Sunderland is willing to
offer further detailed comments on the issues discussed above
if requested by the Committee and believes the issues and suggestions
would make further important steps in the right direction.