Investment in infrastructure – a project that helped to transform a city

Craig Morley
In response to COVID-19, the UK Government has announced plans to bring forward £5billion of investment in infrastructure, in order to provide a boost to the economy. The investment includes funding for road projects, hospitals and education as well as funding for local growth.

What benefits can investment in infrastructure provide to help to boost the economy? Northern Spire, a project which Faithful+Gould and Atkins were proud to deliver, provides a benchmark on how this can be successfully achieved.

Northern Spire is now central to Sunderland City Council’s vision of connecting communities and creating opportunities for major new development and growth. The £117m project was funded by the UK Government (£82.5m) and Sunderland City Council (£35.1m) and is helping to provide far greater economic benefits by creating 6,000 new jobs by attracting investment at a number of nearby sites.

A city in need of investment

In Sunderland, a vital new transport link was required to cross the River Wear and connect key sites earmarked for development. There hadn’t been a new crossing built over the river for 40 years. A solution was required that not only performed the functional requirements to ease traffic congestion, but also created a statement that Sunderland City Council is providing investment in infrastructure to help to spark further development in the city.

Having a single route in and out of the city had long created a choke point that caused significant delays throughout the day, holding back development and economic growth in the city centre. A new access route was also required to open up large sections of derelict land along the river for regeneration. The bridge would be much more than a crossing, it would be a catalyst for growth for the region.

At its peak, the bridge is predicted to be used by around 27,000 vehicles a day, reducing congestion and improving overall journey times for the residents and workers in the city and surrounding areas. The benefits of joining the communities on either side of the river will significantly increase the catchment areas for new business and retail developments planned for south bank.

Helping the community take the bridge to their hearts

During the project many benefits were achieved which helped to promote both the new structure, the construction sector and the city of Sunderland:

Inspired youngsters to consider careers in construction

A classroom and viewing platform were created on site to allow over 2,200 school pupils to visit, learning about construction careers. The project team visited 675 pupils at six nearby primary schools.

People Development

77 college students were invited to the bridge for work experience.

A local community excited by the project

Over 10,300 public votes were cast to name the new bridge. The project provided funding to Pallion Traders Association for flowerbeds as well as funding for a local community-led art project.

This really helped the local community to take the bridge to their hearts. This was evidenced by a pedestrian and cycling open day held the day before the bridge opened to traffic. From the moment the deck was opened, it was full all day and through the evening, with an estimated 20,000 people taking the unique opportunity to see the bridge up close and personal.

Investment attracted by an iconic structure

Projects are about more than functional performance, but also delivering the wide-ranging benefits in the local community and beyond. Achieving success requires lateral thinking, collaboration and effective communication. The completion of the physical construction does not mean those benefits have to come to an end. If implemented effectively, they can help to trigger future investment.

The success of Northern Spire has shown that Sunderland City Council is dedicated to providing inward investment in infrastructure that will benefit the local and regional community. Since its opening, major investment has been announced near to the bridge in the city centre and the transformation of Sunderland has been gathering pace, with a number of high profile developments progressing.

Since opening, the bridge has become an iconic regional landmark and various strategies have ensured it has been embraced by the local community. It is a lot more than a crossing across a river, it has proven to be a gateway to regeneration and investment.

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