One of the UK’s most influential housing policy experts has praised Sunderland as ‘one of the places where people should be investing’

Mike Palin, Homes England, Executive Director for Markets, Partners and Places, says Sunderland has passed all the tests to be named one of the UK’s best places for new opportunities.

Addressing around 150 delegates at Expo Sunderland “Delivering Future Cities Forum”, held at Sunderland City Hall, Mr Palin outlined how the local authority’s approach was preparing Sunderland for a prosperous future.

He said: “Sunderland is one of the leading places in what a future city might look like. There are five key tests to measure successful delivery: firstly, there is a clear vision, second is a good partnership approach - including partnerships across the private sector – third is alignment of effort to deliver on the plan, fourth is flexibility because you never know what might happen and finally the fifth test is bringing together the right capability. If a place meets those five tests, that’s where you should be investing.

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“We argued to Government - Robert Jenrick at the time - that Sunderland was one of those areas and we reported to Michael Gove that Sunderland was one of the places that greatest opportunity could be found – the reason for this? It meets the five tests.”

Mr Palin was speaking on a panel that also included Ed Whiting, director of Levelling Up and Robin Denton, local government director, Microsoft at the Expo, which brings together leaders who champion innovation, stimulate growth, challenge and share best practice in building the cities of our future.

The event explores how Sunderland City Council, working with stakeholders, partners and the government is delivering social and economic growth to inspire future generations.

Mr Palin added: “If you want a place that typifies great leadership, Sunderland is it. Whatever a future city might look like, this feels like it to me.”

Ed Whiting, director at Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, talked about the ‘ingredients’ needed to deliver growth and change and the current levelling-up priorities that will support cities like Sunderland.

He said: “When cities underperform, the way to deal with that is to increase their size. We work with housing programmes, ways of attracting private investment and place-specific regeneration.

“You can’t build a growing economy without jobs, and we’re working with all kinds of partners about how to build a successful city centre, just like what is happening here in Sunderland.”

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Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, said: “If all our residents are proud to live in Sunderland we’ve achieved our ambition. 1,000 new homes, doubling the city centre housing capacity, along with new commercial developments, will ensure that everyone feels the benefit of our investment – so connecting the city’s communities is vital.”

Sunderland City Council Leader, Cllr Graeme Miller, added: “Getting so many experienced and skilled people in one room to point their collective know-how at our city can only be of huge benefit as we continue to move forward with our exciting growth plans and ensure Sunderland is the best medium-sized city in the UK.”