Lichfields and 4D are on the professional team. Credit: via Creo

Crown Works to fore as region secures trailblazer deal

Sunderland City Council and the incoming North East Mayoral Combined Authority will commit up to £120m using the tools provided by the deal announced in today’s Budget, providing a boost to the £450m film studios plan.

The “trailblazer devolution deal” announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt today hinted at a package of funding streams for the North East of more than £100m.

Speaking on the North East’s deal, Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove said:  “Yesterday’s Budget saw the North East take back control. This historic Trailblazer deal will transfer decision-making powers out of Westminster and into the hands of the new Mayor, and makes new powers and funding available to be spent by local people, on their priorities.

“It builds on the devolution revolution we announced at the Convention of the North last week, where nine in ten people in the North of England will now be empowered by tailored devolution deals. This is putting power into the hands of people who know their areas best.

“I’m also delighted to announce that the Budget will equip the North East and Sunderland with the tools to enable the future North East Mayoral Combined Authority to bring in investment from the film and high-end TV sector.

“This private sector investment will transform a site in Sunderland into an incredible studio facility that will create countless investment and job opportunities for the region, and build on the UK’s global reputation for film and TV production.”

Crown Works Studios is billed as a project that will transform the economy of the North East, potentially generating £336m a year for the regional economy.

FulwellCain, a joint venture between global entertainment company Fulwell 73 and Cain International, is behind the project, Lichfields and 4D are on the professional team. Plans were submitted in November.

The commitment from SCC and NEMCA is a “huge step” towards realising the full ambition of 20 soundstages in the heart of Sunderland, said the scheme’s promoters.

Leo Pearlman, managing partner of 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.

“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.”

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, commented: “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.”

Cllr Amanda Hopgood, interim portfolio holder for culture, creative, tourism and sport ahead of the formation of NEMCA 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.”

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This article has been updated to include comment from the Secretary of State.

By Neil Tague

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