Senior Clergy have spoken out about the threat to jobs and the loss of a 'regional voice' after the announcement that the Sunderland Echo printing presses are to be shut down.

The closure of the printing press could mean the loss of 81 jobs and the Sunderland Echo - owned by Johnston Press - together with sister titles the South Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail - will be printed in South Yorkshire.

Local newspapers are essential to local communities. Their health is measured by their local participation in the economy and in reporting. The loss of an exceptional editor, and the moving of printing to Sheffield, are bad news for Sunderland and the north east, and much to be regretted

Bishop Justin - 'bad news for Sunderland' Credit: Keith Blundy / Aegies Associates

The Echo's Editor, Rob Lawson, announced his resignation shortly after the closure plans were revealed. The printing presses could close as soon as next month.

Nearly 300 editorial, commercial and support staff will remain at the Echo's Pennywell offices. Earlier this month Johnston also announced it is moving production and sub-editing of its North East titles 120 miles away to Sheffield.

My dealings with Rob have demonstrated his passion for the City and for the welfare of the people of Sunderland which need to be at the heart of any local newspaper, I realise that the voice of the newspaper is a team effort but this will be a hard act to follow

Sunderland Echo Credit: ITV

In April the company announced the closure of five newspaper offices with the loss of six jobs.

Offices at South Shields, Hartlepool, Berwick, Kelso and Selkirk were closed and editorial and advertising staff moved to Sunderland.

All titles produced in Sunderland will now be printed in Sheffield Credit: ITV