Playing to our strengths ...
He has lived and worked in the city for more than 40 years, and as the man at the head of championing Sunderland city centre, Alan Patchett sees a bright future.
In June, Mr Patchett took the reins as chairman of the board at Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID) after retiring from his post as director at Age UK Sunderland.
Having been on the board of the BID since it began, Mr Patchett has been involved in every step so far, and admits his aims now are to help develop the city centre into a place where people want to work, live and play.
“Since taking up the new role, it has really focused my mind to what needs to be done in both the short and long term, to get Sunderland to where we want it to be,” he said.
“I think we have to really focus on doing things that people can see are making a real difference.”
Recent initiatives like Project 100, which involved 3,000 students from Sunderland College helping clean up Park Lane and its surrounding area, have proved popular and with the Christmas celebrations now a big priority, it’s a busy time for everyone involved.
“We’ve just had a tremendous boost from the Project 100 initiative, which shows that things are being done to improve the look of the city and we are also supporting the bid to become City of Culture in 2021, which, if successful, would make a huge difference not only to the city centre, but to the whole of Sunderland.”
With a year to run of its current tenure, Mr Patchett believes the BID needs to focus on Sunderland’s individual merits. “I’ve always said we shouldn’t try to copy anywhere else,” he stresses. “We aren’t Newcastle or Hull, we are Sunderland and we need to play to our own strengths. “The Vaux site is starting to be developed now at long last which I think will drive more new businesses into the city. “For me, I would like to see more independent traders. “One of the things we have is a lot of fantastic independent businesses, and I believe we should work hard to encourage more. “We have a wonderful restaurant culture here too. “We’ve also got work going on with Jacky Whites market which will make it a really unique place, and we have things going on at the former Park Lane market, so it’s an exciting time for the city, and we need everyone to get on board.”
Mr Patchett says he and the team is fully committed to working with the existing businesses to carve out a strong future for the city, and is hopeful that business leaders will continue to support the BID and work with it.
“We need to continue talking to the levy payers so they can see that we are making big improvements for everyone, and to ensure they are getting value for money, he added.
“Going forward, we need to work with our unique assets to encourage more and more people to come into Sunderland.
“We are in a unique position to really make a difference, and we just hope we can get the support we need to carry it through.”
Chairman of the board at Sunderland Business Improvement District, Alan Patchett.