It was the £120m vote of confidence the whole region was waiting for.

As soon as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in his Budget that there would be Trailblazer funding for the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority, everyone involved in one key project  - the bold plans for a vast film studios complex in Sunderland - knew that Leo Pearlman's  Crown Works Studios could now go ahead.

Leo described it all as 'a historic moment' for Sunderland and the North East and his Fulwell 73 production company said: "The support for this project from the amazing people and businesses of the North East has been utterly phenomenal so thank you – to everyone who has got behind our ambition. We did it!"

The Trailblazer deal means more devolution of wide-ranging powers are coming to the North East and moments after it was announced, Sunderland City Council and NEMCA confirmed that they will invest up to £120m towards Crown Works using the tools provided by the new deal.  

The Northern Echo: The vision for Crown Works Stuidos

That announcement leverages £450m of private funding, which will enable the North East to achieve its full creative potential, and become a major hub for big budget productions, capitalising on the productive, loyal workforce the region boasts.

The project, pending planning permission, could see ground broken as early as this summer with the construction of the first six stages as part of Phase One and the completion of further phases taking the project  to 20 stages by 2028. 

The Northern Echo: Jeremy Hunt delivers his BudgetJeremy Hunt delivers his Budget (Image: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire)


The Crown Works Studios plan

  • The proposals are to deliver Crown Works Studios on 33-hectares of previously developed land on the south bank of the River Wear.
  • The vision is to create a major studio that meets the requirements of the international film and television industry, enabling Sunderland to establish itself as a prime destination for the UK’s high-end film and TV production.
  • It will be a hub for skills, technology and creative people, as well as for social and community life – for both the film industry and neighbours.
  • Key stats include: £759 million in GVA per year, including a £336 million contribution to North East GVA; 2,000 jobs on-site, including security, training, painters, plasters, joiners, metal workers; 20,970 jobs across the UK; 8,450 new jobs in the region
  • Once fully built out, three blockbuster movies or a series of films could be made on this site. Only 1 or 2 sound stages would be needed for a small movie, whilst a major project would require 3-4 sound stages.


The Northern Echo: Leo PearlmanLeo Pearlman The full site will attract global productions worth £644m a year. At this point, Crown Works will be responsible for the creation of over 8,450 new jobs in the region, and £336m of economic growth (GVA) per year at full capacity and on completion of all phases of construction. 

Leo Pearlman, Managing Partner Fulwell 73 said: “Today is a historic moment for Sunderland, the North East and the UK’s screen industries. Crown Works Studios will help transform the city we love into a global hub for big budget film and TV production.

The Northern Echo: The Crown Works planThe Crown Works plan (Image: Picture: CROWN WORKS STUDIOS)

"Britain’s creative sector is at its best when industry and the public sector share the same vision and work together to deliver it – so I’m hugely grateful for the backing of the new North East Mayoral Combined Authority and for the partnership between them, Fulwell 73 and Sunderland City Council.

"Our screen industries are world-leading - and with this backing, the UK, with the North East in its arsenal, can grow its capacity for the production of film and high-end TV.

“At the centre of our plan is a pioneering training strategy that will transform lives and create new opportunities throughout the North East, kick starting a creative revolution that enables the region to play a leading role in our most exciting sector.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a monumental day for Crown Works Studios, Fulwell 73, Sunderland and the North East, unlocking jobs and opportunities for our people and businesses that will bring about benefits for generations to come.

“We have worked hand in glove with Fulwell 73, the Government and our regional partners to ensure that this scheme – which is game-changing for the whole of the North East – will move from vision to reality.”

The Northern Echo: Graeme MillerGraeme Miller

Councillor Amanda Hopgood, interim portfolio holder for culture, creative, tourism and sport ahead of the formation of a new North East Mayoral Combined Authority in May, and leader of Durham County Council, said: “Devolution brings with it the opportunity for local leaders to back projects that are regionally significant, directing trailblazer funding directly into the North East’s priorities.

“The Government’s confirmation of our trailblazer paves the way for Fulwell 73 to push ahead with this ambitious project, unlocking £450m of private sector investment to turn this exciting vision into a reality.  We are proud to back Crown Works Studios, a project that brings the promise of thousands of new jobs and the opportunity to build a local supply chain that will support generations of people in this brilliant region.”

The new powers negotiated by the Leaders of Councils of County Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland are designed to reflect the region’s unique geography, with a mixture of urban, rural, and coastal communities.


Highlights include:

  • A £25m investment to support the development of the Riverside Sunderland site along with creation of a ‘Growth Zone’ to attract investment.
  • Investment of £10m to accelerate progress on a Health Innovation Zone - including the Health Innovation Neighbourhood and Forth Yards sites in Newcastle.
  • Support for the region’s rural and coastal economy – including a new Taskforce to support biodiversity and the natural environment.
  • £58m of funding brought forward to cover the maintenance and renewal of the Tyne and Wear Metro system for the next two years.
  • A single funding pot for housing and regeneration, more influence over affordable housing with a commitment to a future single government department style financial settlement.
  • Creation of a formal rail board with the government and rail industry to jointly develop plans for improvements to rail infrastructure and services in the region.
  • Support for plans to develop the expansion of the “Pop” card onto local rail services.
  • More local responsibility for developing and delivering adult education, skills and careers advice and working in partnership with Department for Work and Pensions to improve how people get into work.
  • More control over delivering affordable homes for residents, in partnership with Homes England.
  • A North East Strategic Energy Board which will coordinate energy supply and demand and promote growth in the offshore wind sector.
  • Development of a blueprint to support growth of the creative industries, heritage, sport and the visitor economy, and new opportunities to attract additional investment.
  • The Government will also work to address barriers to growth at the region’s ports and airport – the Green Superport – including on policy areas like grid infrastructure capacity and developing an industry-leading skills pipeline.