OPINION: Holmeside is an Eyesore, Why all the Hatred for a new car park?

Holmeside, adjoined by Blandford Street, is objectively the worst part of Sunderland City Centre. The area is in a sorry state, littered with decaying and derelict buildings, as well empty retail units. It is least half a century past its best.

Due to the pandemic, Holmeside has objectively gotten even worse. The Sunderland Open Market was driven out of business, and some of the popular venues on the street, such as Sinatra’s, have gone under and been forced to close.

Recently, it was announced that this former pub building, as well as the former Railway Club, will be demolished and in its place a new “Multi-Storey Car Park” will be built. The news has attracted outrage from Sunderland Netizens.

As of this morning, the Echo comments section on the story has over 714 responses. The highest rated comments bemoan the Car Park as a development and argue that Sunderland has nothing to offer in order to build one. As one comment goes: “Jesus we will be a city with greggs,pound shop, vape shops, charity shops and bloody car parks.

The anger also reflects another Carpark development ongoing next to the former Vaux Site, which attracted similar disgruntled comments when SGM reported on it. The general sentiment appears to be that more carparks will not be economic rewarding for Sunderland, and that it is pointless building them if there is “nothing to offer”. But is that really the case?

Contrary however, to what most people believe, a carpark is not useless. A carpark is a piece of public transport infrastructure that facilitates the accessibility and flow of people into a city. If you want people to come into your city centre and make it possible for people to work in your city too, you need carparks.

Currently, Sunderland City Centre is not very friendly for drivers. It is small in size and its road network is tight and largely restricted to one direction. As of present it only has two major sized carparks, those being the Bridges and St. Mary’s, with a scattered assortment of smaller ones in inconvenient locations. There’s also one next to the Cinema, but that’s not very convenient. The high demand of these car parks pushes up the cost of parking. These are significant reasons why people will not drive into Sunderland and spend money.

New car parks make life easier. In addition to that, they will also increase the flow of people going through Holmeside which will bring new opportunities to its faltering business environment. The location of The Bridges at the top of the street has arguably been one of the biggest geographic factors for its decline, precisely because it moves the flow of people and business away from the street. Thus since it opened, the centre of gravity of Sunderland retail has been around it and high street. Blandford Street and Holmeside suffer because they are isolated.

So why all the hatred for it? Holmeside right now literally has nothing going for it, and nothing ever will go for it if you don’t build infrastructure that gives it a purpose.