Wouldhave House, South Shields
Why all of the big fuss?
I cannot understand why the decision of South Tyneside Council to demolish Wouldhave House in the Market Place, South Shields has caused such verbose reaction amongst some of the regular readers of The Shields Gazette (from whom I link to this picture). It is an eyesore, it belongs in a bygone era when buildings needed to be erected quickly and cheaply after wartime damage, function was of far more importance than style or context, and for many years two sides of our Market Place have looked distinctly “out of place”. It’s architecture resembles post war East Germany and we were left with buildings that one could not in all honestly be proud of, but they served a purpose.
The regeneration of the riverside and the Rekendyke Ward has been something that this council of ours, and this blog, have been talking about for at least four years now, and only recently are we starting to see some solid forms rising on land that has been under-used, I actually believe that many of us will eventually get to like the design of the new BT South Tyneside HQ on Harton Staithes, its overall shape evokes the history of the river and its strong links to shipbuilding and repair, especially being so close to docks that once thrived with activity. Its two triangular shaped frontages resemble two giant hulls and point in the general direction of the two docks , Brigham and Cowans and Middle Dock, which operated nearby. We also have a new supermarket in Coronation Street which sympathetically matches the designs of new shops in Waterloo Square and the BT building (many square panels of glass.)
Houses are in the process of being constructed opposite the site of the old Eureka public house in Frederick Street, and much land has been cleared ready for development along the riverside former site of Middle Docks and the former site of Plessey/Circatex. It is good to see, at last, that some progress is being seen to be made, one constant criticism I have made of South Tyneside Labour Council has been its ability to drag its feet on town development, although I must concede in this case that many parcels of land needed to be bought up to make available for developers and this does take some time.
I wonder how many of the verbose critics in the local paper took the time to involve themselves in the consultations which began in 2007 and offered some views or opinions as to how they wanted the future shape of South Shields to evolve? I wonder too if the constant shrill calls for free car parking are really the answer that we all seek to regenerating the borough’s economic viability and our ability to attract and retain visitors, I think that we have already proven that our parking charges are modest in comparison with our neighbours and that new pay and display areas are not succeeding in turning visitors away! You won’t find hundreds of free car parks in North Shields or Tynemouth, but the shops are still there!
For a while, as Janis Blower rightly asserts, we will have another wide open vista of the riverside which people will be reluctant to lose, but lose it we must! We must hope to find a developer who can create a modern scheme with a traditional background that should include retail units, cafes and restaurants, pubs, and commercial opportunities above and around. For those of you who have visited Hartlepool Marina, I hope you were impressed by the presentation of shops and hotel on the seaward side, I think it is a smart development with its iron palisade and glass covering, attractive enough for a visitor to take an interest in and filled with a good variety of outlets, I honestly could live with something like that on one (or even two) sides of our Market Place. However, what is vitally important to attract the right developer is that the land is available, serviced, and ready to build upon, there is little sense in leaving the north side of the Market Place as it is, it will not attract interest and postponing demolition will only increase the cost needlessly.
Lets get it down while we can, and be determined not to place a car park on it!
What form of development would readers like to see on the north side of South Shields Market Place?
Do readers believe that free parking is the answer to our many problems?
How best should South Tyneside prepare for an eventual upturn in the local economy?