Yesterday the news emerged that Metalwork Pictures USA, Broadwick Live and Kajima Corporation of Japan submitted proposals with a local partner to transform the defunct Pallion Shipyard into what is described as “the largest covered ‘water studio’ in the world”.

If fully realized, the plans would bring 1000 jobs to Sunderland and transform the city into a beacon of film-making, an outcome which would be undeniably sensational for this area’s future and image. It is hard for any reasonable person to reject the idea.

However, the Pallion Shipyard has also been sat at the centre of a local political controversy owing to its future. For over a year, a campaign has been waged to save the structure and bring back Maritime industries to the River Wear.

The campaign has frequently accused Sunderland Council of bad faith and opacity regarding the future of the site, and alleging them of purposefully obstructing development. The council have dismissed the campaign’s concerns and attributed responsibility for the facility to its owners.

But, if these new plans are in fact true, SGM must acknowledge that the proposals constitute a major political defeat or “checkmate” for the Shipyard Campaign, and pending on whether they materialize, we must look forwards to what the future brings, as opposed to backwards to the past.

The Pallion Shipyard Campaign has passionately stressed it supports returning jobs to the River Wear. This is a noble cause. However, it is also true that they have never presented a feasible or costed business plan as to how to bring about their idea. Likewise, other pending developments such as new low level footbridges over the River further downstream, further make it unfeasible.

Shipbuilding is a critical aspect of Sunderland’s heritage and identity. We are proud of it and we are passionate about it. We will remember it forever. But it is also true that what’s gone, is gone, and when it comes to a choice between a lucrative new super film studio, or a non-starter proposal, it’s a no-brainer.

However, critics will contest that this new plan may also be “too good to be true”. While it is undoubtedly more realistic, has likewise any money been pledged? Critics will contest this is a public relations stunt orchestrated by the council to defeat the increasingly politically bothersome campaign.

But ultimately, it must be objectively accepted that this is a plan that can be bought into. It has everything the Pallion Shipyard campaign wanted to bring to Sunderland 1) Saving the Building 2) Creating Jobs 3) Increasing local prestige. Unless the plans fail or don’t materialize, there is no reason to oppose this absolutely sensational idea.

If it is pulled off: It is indeed checkmate and curtains for “Save Our Shipyard”.

It’s just what Sunderland needs, a monumental, once in a generation opportunity to lure a world class industry to this city, transforming its global importance forever. As that is just what SGM wants to see happen, how could anyone say no?

But don’t expect the drama to come to an end.

By SGM

SGM

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