Hellens Group

Hellens Group Leading the Way on Urban Renewal in the North East


Never more than in the past twelve months, has the landscape of the British high street changed more markedly. After lengthy periods in which non-essential retail and hospitality has been closed, the look of UK town centres is now more akin to the café-lined boulevards of Paris than anything the Anglian climate would ordinarily allow. It has been a tough year for businesses, with all in-person shopping impacted. We’ve lost a host of well-known high street names including Topshop and Debenhams, with eateries like Café Rouge and Carluccio’s all but disappearing. And all this has arisen amid the ongoing competition

created by the growth of out-of-town retail and the rise of ecommerce.

Increasingly, local authorities are coming to the same conclusion; that one way or another, high streets and urban commercial developments are in need of change. Urban renewal and regeneration is very high on the agenda. As well as pockets of commercial-to-residential repurposing, many of the Brutalist-style constructions from the mid-20th Century onwards, have fallen out of use and favour.

In partnership with local authorities across the North East, Sunderland and Stockton-based developer, Hellens Group, is proving itself to be a leading force in delivering innovative solutions to ailing town centres.

CASE STUDY: Houghton Colliery

Houghton Colliery had stood empty for 40 years when Sunderland City Council agreed to sell it in 2019. Hellens Group is leading the £15m retail development park, in partnership with Sunderland City Council and development partners, Fintry Estates. Research by Hellens Group found that 70% of convenience goods (e.g. food) and 90% of comparison goods were bought from outside the area, in Sunderland, Washington and Durham. The regeneration of this brownfield site adjacent to the town centre is aiming to draw people back to the area and support existing shops and businesses in Houghton. The site will also feature artwork by the man behind Seaham’s famous sculpture, ‘Tommy’, Ray Lonsdale dedicated to the areas mining heritage. The project will new jobs in the local community. The redeveloped site will provide an attractive public realm space for the people of Houghton-le-Spring. The 6,100sqm development will include 330 parking spaces for customers, including electric car charging points. Gavin Cordwell-Smith, chief executive of Hellens Group, said: “Our Houghton Colliery development will breathe new life into the town and its economy, creating an attractive retail destination and jobs for local people in the process.”

CASE STUDY: Spennymoor

When the previous owners of Spennymoor’s Festival Walk went into administration, the site stood vacant for more than ten years. In that time, Durham County Council has been working on plans to improve the site and redevelop it for the residents. Durham County Council, in partnership with lead developer Hellens Group, has invested £600,000 to transform the town centre and provide an attractive and modern retail location for private investment.

Hellens Group is demolishing the majority of Festival Walk in order to regenerate the space and reposition the site as a great place for both businesses and consumers. At least 10 new jobs will be made available upon completion of a 1760 sq m Aldi store, and a new public realm will invite the community to relax and enjoy their town centre. A number of refurbished retail units totalling 1460 sq m will be made available to rent by Hellens Group on attractive terms to both local and national businesses. With an additional 140 car parking spaces, including electric vehicle charging points, the redeveloped site will be the new place to visit for all surrounding towns.

back to Hellens Group


An artist's impression of the Houghton Colliery development
An artist's impression of the Houghton Colliery development
Download Large Image