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University of Sunderland says it is in talks regarding future site options for the centre, as locals raise concerns against relocation plans.

The National Glass Centre is situated on the of the River Wear in Sunderland

Reading Tom via Flickr

Concerns have been raised about the long-term future of the National Glass Centre (NGC) after the University of Sunderland revealed plans to relocate the centre from its current site.

A statement released by the university earlier this year confirmed plans to complete the relocation within the next three years, following an external review which found a multi-million pound investment would be required to address structural-related issues.

When asked by Arts Professional, the University of Sunderland did not reveal what plans are in place for the relocation, but a spokesperson confirmed the university is in “active and positive discussions with key partners, including Sunderland City Council, about future site options”.


“The University has always been clear that the search for a new home, or homes, is an opportunity for the National Glass Centre’s work to reach new audiences in a financially secure and sustainable manner, rather than just seeking to recreate the status quo,” the spokesperson added.

The university took over ownership of the building, which opened in 1998, from the council in 2010. It homes the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA) and the university’s glass and ceramics courses.

At the time, the building cost £17m. The external review, conducted by GSSArchitecture, identified structural defects including roof leaks, corrosion and broken glazing and has estimated a cost of between £14m and £45m to repair.

The university plans to keep the NGC open to the public until its relocation but did not to confirm to Arts Professional whether or not any interim works would take place.

The centre attracts in excess of 230,000 visitors annually, but the roof has been closed to the public for five years due to ongoing structural problems.

The NGC is widely-considered a key institution in Sunderland’s cultural landscape. Options being considered for the centre’s relocation include Culture House, a multi-purpose cultural venue currently under construction. 

In February, Liberal Democrat Councillor Julia Potts said shutting the NGV and NGCA moving them into "a few rooms in the University or the new Culture House” would be “an embarrassment”.

“People across Sunderland cannot believe that there are tens of millions of pounds of structural problems in a building so new,” she added.

Earlier this month, the Observer reported the centre’s existing site is “set to be shut down and mothballed” following the relocation.

The university’s spokesperson told Arts Professional “no decisions have yet been made” on the future of the current site.

Local criticism

Members of the public in Sunderland have questioned if the university’s decision to relocate the centre is down to a focus on other priorities.

Former town planner David Vickery accused the university of “running a slick public relations campaign to rid itself of the [centre] at little cost” in a blog post published earlier this month.

“The University considers that the NGC no longer forms part of its key academic objectives,” he added.

At the time of the university’s initial announcement, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Sir David Bell said the university “is not in a position to spend the millions of pounds required to secure the long-term future of the current building”.

A month later, University of Sunderland announced £250m investment over the next 10 years to transform facilities across its campuses in Sunderland and London. 

The first phase of work, due to take part over the next four years, will see a £100m redevelopment of the university’s St Peter’s campus, where the NGC is located, alongside its arts and creative industries faculty.

An online petition calling for the centre to retain its St Peter’s location has received more than 1,600 signatures.

The petition states the NGC’s current location “is vital to the vibrancy of the city and adds significantly to the lives of local people, businesses, and students in the area”.

“We understand that the cost of maintaining such an iconic and nationally important building may be too high for University to bear and urge alternative arrangements to be found to safeguard the National Glass Centre, and the future of the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art,” the petition adds.