A FORMER police base is primed to become a business centre in a £4m re-development.

Entrepreneur Charlie Hoult plans to revamp Sunderland’s Gilbridge police station.

Mr Hoult, owner of Newcastle’s Hoults Yard business hub, has signed an exclusivity agreement with Gilbridge owner Sunderland City Council and hopes work will start “soon”, having appointed a project manager to oversee the conversion.

Named Station H, Mr Hoult says the Wearside centre will have 45,000sq ft of rentable space and accommodate around 200 workers, adding he hopes to replicate the success of his Newcastle venture.

Mr Hoult also said Gilbridge’s overhaul will build on growing momentum in Sunderland, which is being led by the transformation of the former Vaux brewery site into office and leisure space, and the new £117m Northern Spire bridge across the River Wear.

“We’re very keen to get started on the police station and are already showing prospective tenants around,” said Mr Hoult, who revealed Station H will cater for companies across various sectors.

“We want to create the supportive, creative environment we have at Hoults Yard.

“That means great offices, but also ping-pong tournaments, dog shows for tenants’ hounds and great connections between customers.

“Diversity is important, so we’d be happy to welcome a wide range of businesses, by sector or size.”

Mr Hoult also moved to allay fears over the station’s appearance, saying it will be improved in the re-development.

He added: “Some people aren’t perhaps big fans of the building, but brutalist architecture is bang on trend.

“We can soften it a bit with some lighting and colour and open it up for admirers.

“We have to go through the correct planning process, but we’re raring to go and the council has been very helpful and supportive, so I’d like to think we can start work on site soon.”

Councillor Mel Speding, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Secretary, said the authority is excited by Mr Hoult’s plans for the police station, which closed in 2015, reiterating how its re-development will augment existing work on the Vaux site.

He added: “Proposals for Station H are about providing a new type of offer for business, complementing what the council and (developer) Siglion are delivering on Vaux.

“I know many across our city will welcome Hoults into Sunderland with this new venture.”