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Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland

A proposed modern structural feature set within well-known historic landscape needed a thorough heritage setting assessment.

Our client, a nationally renowned engineering company, received pre-application advice from Sunderland City Council identifying a number of heritage assets with the potential to be affected by the proposed development of a new footbridge over the River Wear, part of the development of the Keel railway line.

The development and route of the Keel railway was widely welcomed, however, as it would come close to well-loved and important historic assets, a thorough review of its impacts was considered necessary.

AB Heritage undertook a Heritage Statement and conducted a thorough site visit to better understand the current setting and context of the proposed development on either side of the River Wear. The site visit was also concerned with how the proposals may affect views to and from various heritage assets in the area. Seven heritage assets were researched for potential inclusion in the report, but once on site, only three (the Wearmouth Bridge, the Monkwearmouth Railway Bridge, and the Former N.E.R Stables) were considered to have potential to be affected; with all three categorised as having very high or high heritage significance.

AB Heritage’s report concluded that the plans for the proposed New Wear Footbridge would not have any direct impacts upon the fabric of any known designated or non-designated heritage assets. However, the report did conclude that, as a new feature within views to and from the existing historic bridges, there was potential for indirect impact.

A continuation of the human story in the area

Despite being an obviously new feature in the landscape, and a clear change to the existing baseline condition, the proposed new footbridge was considered to be in keeping with the character of the river setting. A well designed and executed new bridge could enhance the established setting of the historic bridges, allowing for a new viewpoint to them from the west. The proposed new bridge could add an interesting and long-term element to the existing iconic bridges to continue the story of human activity along the river.

The proposed change to the setting of the Former N.E.R. Stables would improve a currently redundant and overgrown site overlooking the riverbanks close to the former Stables. Furthermore, the continuation of the Keel Line from the City Centre, across the river and to the Stadium of Light Football Stadium, would enable many thousands of passers-by to experience the special architectural and historic interests of the Listed Stables Buildings.

Positive contribution, facilitating public understanding

In conclusion, the new bridge was considered to be a positive contribution to the character and quality of the historic environment, improving access and enjoyment by encouraging public understanding of the assets special qualities, and cultural values.

The detailed report provided by the AB Heritage was also able to illuminate the fascinating historical context of riverside industrial activity, including the significant roles played by the bridges and NER stables.

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