BUSINESS leaders have welcomed what they describe as a ‘step-change for Sunderland’, after three major development announcements in as many weeks.

Leaders from companies and organisations across Sunderland and beyond have welcomed the news of 300 new jobs in the heart of the city, following July’s announcement of the first occupier in The Beam, the flagship development former Vaux site.

And the good news continued with the green light given to plans for a new hotel that will stand on Keel Square and a seaside Stack development that will bring more than 100 jobs to the city, when it opens in spring 2020.

Helen Golightly, chief executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, speaking of Ocado’s decision to establish a base in the city, she said: “This is fantastic news for the Vaux site and the region as a whole.

"The Beam is central to the plans for the wider site and attracting a major employer such as Ocado is a key milestone that will unlock further development that will lead to the creation of more and better jobs for our citizens.”

The Vaux site was identified as a major regeneration site and has received £10.8m from the government’s Local Growth Deal through the North East LEP, in addition to loan funding of £2.5m from the North East Investment Fund (NEIF).

The news of yet-more city centre investment was also warmly welcomed by the city’s Business Improvement District (BID), who believe the additional workers and visitors this will bring to the area will boost the daytime and evening economies.

Sharon Appleby, head of business operations at Sunderland BID, said: “Sunderland is growing a reputation as a city to watch, with investment flowing in from both the public and private sector.

“The addition of Ocado as a business, and this latest announcement of the approval of a new hotel on Keel Square really does represent a step-change for the city centre.

“Added to Hays Travel’s move to a new HQ in Gilbridge House, overlooking Keel Square, and with more investment coming with the build of city hall, there is a sense of momentum building and that will bring with it hundreds of new jobs, and with them spending power to positively impact on the city centre both during the day, as well as after work.”

Sunderland Business Partnership, a collective of more than 50 businesses from across the city and beyond, has applauded the work of the public sector in attracting yet more investment into the city.

Ellen Thinnesen, who is chair of the partnership as well as chief executive of Education Partnership North East, which includes Sunderland College, said: “Sunderland is a city on the up.

“I’ve been absolutely blown away by the rate of change across the city, and particularly in the city centre.

“The college has invested more than £50m in new facilities over the last few years, including the creation of our City Campus, which has delivered huge benefits for the college and its students and is one of a number of developments that has been transformational for the city.

“We look forward to seeing more fantastic projects move ahead, with the green light on two significant developments for the city and its coast.”

Work is expected to get underway on the Stack within days, and the hotel on Keel Square will move forward this year.

It is thought that Ocado will start to move its new team into The Beam building by the end of 2019.

Councillor Michael Mordey, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “The team at the council has been working incredibly hard to ensure that Sunderland is absolutely investment-ready, and that work is now reaping rewards.

“The amount of positive investment stories coming through over the past few months is unprecedented, and we’re delighted to see yet-more businesses choosing to back Sunderland and create more great places for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.”