South Shields 365 – bring it on

I’m no stranger to objecting to developments in South Tyneside.  The second Tyne Tunnel project, the building of an industrial estate on green belt in Jarrow, waste incineration.  But engaging in local development is not just about objecting.  South Tyneside Council’s new South Shields 365 initiative, I think, with some minor reservations, is worth supporting.

It would be too easy to be pessimistic and cynical.  After all, South Tyneside Council has been down this road before.  The failed HMS Cavalier pipedream, the Hebburn town centre development which slipped into a half finished job, and the 2002 Comedia Transformational Plan for South Tyneside 100 Days initiative, silently shuffled off it’s mortal coil not long after the very public and expensive launch (although it’s still featured on David Miliband’s home page).  If you look at the comments at the Shields Gazette website, it looks like buds of negativity are starting to bloom already.  Hopefully it’s all hot air.

But if South Tyneside Council lets past failures stop new development, the future is a stagnant pond of disillusionment and decay.

On the face of it, South Shields 365 looks like a packaging of older disparate development plans with some new ideas into a single, simple brand.  I think the development looks good, and has been imaginatively delivered.  And it’s well overdue.  Some people might say that a period of cuts and recession is the worst time to embark on such a project.  I disagree, this is just the kind of kick start South Tyneside’s town centres need.  As well as the civic areas, food and retail outlets I would like to see more to bring businesses from other sectors, like BT, into South Shields town centre.  People working here are more likely to spend their leisure time here, and their cash, too.

Additionally, I would like see better transport options.  There are already enough parking facilities in town, and Metro and bus users still form the largest group of people travelling to and from South Shields town centre, so a comfortable and safe transport hub is essential.  Also, there needs to be better access and priority routes for cyclists in, out and around the town centre.  Cycling on the roads in the town centre can be hairy experience and more needs to be done to make cycling safer and more attractive.

I like the idea of greening the Market Square, and how it links in better with the surroundings, without the road cutting between St Hilda’s and the market.

South Tyneside Council–Market Square

 

Some market traders have already complained on the television news that the significant reduction in pitches will change the Market Square.  Of course it will.  But none of those market traders who complained bothered to turn up on Christmas Eve, of all days, when the market place was a sea of empty metal stalls under a wet, grey sky.  Their complaints would have some merit if they were fighting each other for pitches and showing some commitment to the town.

South Shields has got to compete with North Shields, Sunderland and Newcastle.  It’s not an even playing field, but if Debenhams and Next can be attracted into South Shields, a re-energising of the town centre is required.  This would help local businesses grow and thrive.  Doing nothing is not an option.

I really hope that people engage with these plans, even if they don’t like everything that’s been presented so far.

Unfortunately, like all development plans, politics, planning and economics will get in the way, meaning that not all of it will come to pass.  But I hope that most of it does.

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11 responses to “South Shields 365 – bring it on”

  1. Peter W Skevington says :

    Aspiration and ambition, but we need the local spending power, secure remunerative employment and footfall to make it viable. “Gazette” comment posters are notorious for negativity and anti STC opinions.

    • brian paget says :

      I agree on the footfall issue, South Shields needs local jobs to bring money into the economy. It’s not enough to hope to attract shoppers away from Sunderland and Newcastle, and hope South Shields residents come into town. There is still empty land along the river suitable for industrial development which has been unused for too long, languishing in the asset registers of local landowners.

      Sadly, none of this is new, Curly talked about this years ago, and we’re still waiting to see action. Hopefully this initiative will bring in the investment necessary to kick start development, and kick some backsides into action.

      • Peter W Skevington says :

        Consider shoppers who live in the relatively, affluent area of Cleadon and East Boldon; plenty of public transport and relatively easy access to Sunderland and Newcastle. Also Cleadon Village and EB have new SME specialist retail and eating establishments that seem to thrive. I agree with Nigel Farage of UKIP, who, to his credit, is a strong supporter of the SME sector in UK, and would certainly be interested in the opinions of any local UKIP or Independent politician, who had an entrepreneurial background and could produce coherent, credible ideas and proposed policies about how to regenerate this area.

  2. Ken says :

    Hi Brian, nice to see a haven of positivity (if that is a word?). Like you, I would like to see the plans prosper, “canny Shields” is where I was born, and, I would like to see it not only return to it’s former glory, but to exceed it. I am pleased to see you appear to have avoided the “magic bullet” approach, ie the assumption that there is just one issue to solve, and/or only one way to solve it.

    In my humble opinion, there are many issues from cleanliness, transport (of all forms), jobs, to mention but a few.

    Each needs to be addressed, and in each case, there will probably be several strands to the solution. So, for example, the question of jobs. Yes, we need more jobs. It would be wonderful to have another Nissan size development, but, that should not exclude encouragement of SME’s, we need both! Similarly, with respect to location, it would be very nice to have a large employer relocate to within the borough, but, if it cannot be within the town or borough boundaries, then at least if it is within reasonable commuting distance, that should be counted as a success.

    One aspect which does disappoint me, the plans appear to show almost exclusively new buildings. Maybe, that is simply artistic licence, I hope so, because there are some interesting and attractive buildings (neglected true), which in my view should be retained. I am not smart enough to understand the practicalities, but, can the council not put pressure on the private owners of some of the Town Centre properties to spruce them up? Have you ever been to Slough, Stevenage, to name but two ghastly “modern” places?.

    Similarly to tidy some of the derelict sites (Streamline Garage and nearby fenced in waste land spring to mind).

    We do need to bear in mind, it is a ten year plan, it is not going to happen overnight. We also need to recognise, ten years is a long time, things may look very different in ten years, and we need to retain a degree of flexibility to adapt.

    Finally, my own hobby horse. This is applicable to the whole of the North East, not just South Tyneside (in my view). We need to attract a range of jobs, not just call centres or even Nissan type manufacturing jobs (desirable as they are), we need to attract quality jobs and to do that we need to attract “head office” not just “satellite distribution depot” developments. This, means we MUST smarten up our “environment” and our attitude to it. We need to clear the litter, and keep it clear, we need to tidy the derelict sites, and keep them tidy, we need good schools, in short we need to make it a place where people WANT to come and live, otherwise, how will we convince the Senior Staff of a relocation candidate company to come here?

    Only some of this can be seen as the Council’s problem, it is the peoples problem, and they must be encouraged to solve it.

    Rant over, have a good day!

    • brian paget says :

      Thanks for your comment Ken. You’ve touched on one of my pet peeves. Local businesses, and in particular retailers, are among the first to whinge that the council don’t do enough for them, but many let their premises and surroundings turn into a mess, and they won’t take the initiative. They need to take responsibility for their own surroundings, or see shoppers go elsewhere.

      • Kevin Rigg says :

        I couldn’t agree more. Retailers have to up their game and become far more savvy as to what inspires shoppers. I like the idea of 10p an hour parking, opwners of vacant shops being required to keeop them clean and presentable with window space used for advertising (even if it is public information posters). Making the place feel and look good is part of the problem.

        Anybody seen what a good job Morpeth have done with thier shops? Gives them a real odly wordly charm, clean, inviting and some quality. That is what south Tynside needs!

  3. Peter W Skevington says :

    “Mr Selfridge” did not whinge about the local council or the government of the day. Interesting interview with Durham City manager in today’s “Journal”, worth a look.Welcome, Ken.

  4. Peter W Skevington says :

    Once again the “Gaz” website features some “entertaining” posts on this subject in response to letters.

  5. Peter W Skevington says :

    Nice to see Kevin posting on here, always has something intelligent and perceptive to say. An antidote to reading some of the “posters” on Gazette online.

    • brian paget says :

      Hi Peter. The Gazette comments page has become a bear pit, slightly to the right of the Daily Mail. When I do comment, I’ve got into the habit of jumping in to the Gazette comments, dropping a bomb, then toddling away.

      • Peter W Skevington says :

        I have been “trolled” on there i.e “Gazette” online too. My twitter “troll” seems to have gone relatively quiet. My theory is that he may have crossed a legal line in respect of the content of some tweets, so, possibly, Rumpole&Co are involved. There is no way that I will reactivate my twitter account, but, like you, I occasionally stir up the uber right wing “Gazette” posters and poseurs.

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