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£15m world-class training centre to move forward

Leaders of major institutions in Sunderland have welcomed a £20m commitment announced in today’s Autumn Budget [27 October] that will support delivery of a cutting-edge training facility that will provide ‘next generation skills for next generation homes’ as part of Sunderland’s ambitious city centre housing ecosystem.

Sunderland City Council, Education Partnership North East and the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education (MOBIE) have secured funding from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) that will see the development of a Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy (HICSA) - a ground-breaking facility that will educate, train and upskill local people to create innovative factory-built new homes, the first of which will be assembled at Riverside Sunderland.  In total, £9m will support the HICSA, with the remaining LUF support assisting the development of new sustainable communities in Sunniside and on Riverside Sunderland.

The facility – the brainchild of the three organisations working in partnership – will enable Sunderland to build the skills-base to upgrade the city’s homes locally, using modern construction methods, low carbon, renewable energy and smart technology.  It will position Sunderland at the heart of the UK’s net zero ambitions, enabling the city to capitalise on the move towards modern methods of construction and sustainable house-building. 

With the £20m commitment from Government, the new educational space can now move ahead.  It will create a state-of-the-art facility in the Sheepfolds neighbourhood of Riverside Sunderland, and – when completed – will support the development of scores of eco-friendly homes planned for the area.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said the funding would help realise the organisations’ vision to build an eco-system in the city that will allow people and businesses to ‘build their own’. 

He said: “This is a leap forward in terms of our ambitious plans to place Sunderland at the heart of the UK’s net zero agenda, creating opportunities for young people to train in modern construction techniques, ensuring they have access to sustainable employment opportunities when they’re qualified. 

“Sunderland people are known internationally for their ability to make things.  You only have to look at the success of Nissan in this city to see that. 

“We now have an opportunity to be a global leader when it comes to modern methods of construction (MMC), in the same way we have become internationally renowned for the manufacturing of cars.  This is another step forward in Sunderland’s green revolution and I am pleased the Government has recognised the undeniable benefits this ambitious plan – led by Sunderland City Council, Sunderland College and MOBIE – has brought to them.” 

Through HICSA, young people will develop ultra-sustainable homes, constructed off-site and making use of the latest technological advancements, to ensure the properties that are built in the city are eco-friendly, digitally advanced, and help Sunderland realise its Smart City and Net-Zero Carbon ambitions.

It will also help to improve the energy efficiency and carbon footprint of a vast number of homes across the city, reducing energy costs and improving health and wellbeing.

Ellen Thinnesen, chief executive of EPNE, which comprises Sunderland College, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to receive backing to move forward with our plans for HICSA, which we are so proud to be delivering in partnership with the council and MOBIE.

“We’re committed as a college to powering the green revolution, that we know will create sustainable opportunities for our young people, as well as advancing the agenda of the city when it comes to building homes using modern methods of construction that are faster to construct and deliver exemplary quality and energy efficiency standards. 

“This is about future-proofing our young people – ensuring that they have the skills that will power the economy of tomorrow and we’re thrilled to be able to advance this important agenda and play a part in building a green future for Sunderland.”

She added: “We are extremely passionate about the role that education can play in not only improving the life chances of the people we teach, but also in increasing the prospects of Sunderland as a city and the region at large.  It’s a hugely positive step for the North East.”

The HICSA is one of a number of exciting projects that are incorporated in the Riverside Sunderland Masterplan, which sets out a development framework for this part of the city, comprising the former Vaux Brewery site, High Street West, Keel Square, Galley’s Gill, Farringdon Row and Sheepfolds.  The Sunderland Future Living Expo – an event that will culminate in a Festival in 2023 - is also part of the plan, helping to engage and inspire industry and local people in the delivery of innovative homes on the site, and positioning Sunderland as a world-class place to live, work and play. 

George Clarke, TV architect and founder of MOBIE said: “High quality homes are at the absolute heart of a successful society and a thriving economy, and by building them locally, Sunderland can maximise the benefit to the city.  Training up the next generation in modern methods of construction is critical to ensure we are at the forefront when it comes to delivering on the future needs of the UK housing market and emerging industries.  We are a city of makers, and HICSA will ensure that Sunderland becomes a known-leader in MMC.”

To find out more about the plans for Riverside Sunderland, visit https://www.riversidesunderland.com