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The future of high streets - next forum debate

National Glass Centre Museum at Sunderland, on banks of the River Wear

We are delighted that the Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, Patrick Melia, is joining our 'Future of high streets' forum this month.

Patrick is driving a major regeneration of Sunderland City Centre. Over £100 million of investment by L&G in new office accommodation has been secured with the employment zone set to create 6,000 jobs. He is also leading a significant multi-million pound seafront regeneration programme with hotel, leisure and housing.

Sunderland has been world famous for shipbuilding, coal mining and glass making. The city opened the £17 million National Glass Centre museum as a cultural venue and visitor attraction in 1998 on the banks of the River Wear, on the former site of J.L. Thompson and Sons shipyard.

Sunderland along with Swindon has been offered the highest amount of funding of £25 million from the UK government's Future High Streets Fund. Seventy-two areas in England are to be helped to recover from the pandemic and deliver ambitious regeneration plans.

The BBC has recently reported that more than 16,000 stores in the UK have closed amid the pandemic and the Centre for Retail Research is forecasting a 18% rise in closures this year, an average of 358 per week, which could result in up to 200,000 job losses.

Altogether £830 million was announced in December by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. The fund is to help regenerate high streets, but also infrastructure, new homes and underused spaces.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick said:

'The year ahead will be a big one for the high street as it seeks to recover, adapt and evolve as a result of the pandemic...the role of the high street has always evolved. We want to support that change and make sure that they are the beating heart of their local community - with high quality housing and leisure in addition to shops and restaurants.'

With the North East region and its people facing challenges in the context of Brexit and recovery from Covid-19, Patrick is co-chair of the Regional Coordination Group, leading on ambitious plans to contribute to the Government's levelling up agenda, creating skills and employment opportunities for residents.

Patrick, who has secured an MBA from Durham University has previously held roles in the Police, Probation and the Health Sector and contributes to a range of national-level initiatives and partnerships.


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