Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Man with a Plan to Breathe New Life into the City Centre

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Man with a Plan to Breathe New Life into the City Centre

Article excerpt

Byline: By Guy Anderson and Helen Logan

Having helped to redefine Glasgow, Sunderland Area Regeneration Company chief executive Tom Macartney has turned to Wearside. Meanwhile hopes are high that ambitious projects will generate up to 24,000 jobs on Tyneside and a 15-year vision is emerging for the banks of the Tees. Guy Anderson and Helen Logan report

A scale model of a city dominates Tom Macartney's office. A sleek bridge spans a glass river, while cardboard sky-scrapers and executive apartments tower over tiny plastic people. It is a vision of Wearside: carefully designed, planned and scaled down by the Sunderland Area Regeneration Company.

One of 12 Government-backed urban regeneration companies across Britain, the group has been charged with breathing new life into the city.

It is a challenge which Mr Macartney - chief executive of Sunderland Arc - accepted with missionary zeal.

"In two decades I see a vibrant city with a thriving evening economy," he said.

"Areas which have not previously been used to their full potential, such as Sunniside, will be full of life and I see sites such as Groves (the former Groves Cranes plant) developed.

"More importantly Sunderland will be making a bigger contribution to the region."

Some of the biggest names in North-East business are behind Mr Macartney. Sitting on the board of Arc are Arriva chief Bob Davies, John Anderson, previously a chairman of Sunderland Training and Enterprise Council, and Bryan Sanderson, who still sits on the board of Sunderland Football Club.

One of the biggest challenges lies in changing the perception of a city which was a major industrial powerhouse throughout much of the 20th century.

"Sunderland has moved recently and there have been big steps further in the last 10 years," said Mr Macartney.

"This is a long-term project. People still see Sunderland as a backwater."

The miniature city in Mr Macartney's office - stretching across three square metres - features offices and modern housing amid landscaped spaces on the banks of the Wear.

The reality remains 10 acres of empty land which was cleared when the former Vaux brewery - which closed in 1999 after more than a century - was demolished earlier this year. …

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