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Frederick Street: 40 year decline to be arrested.

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Frederick Street, South Shields

South Shields street prepares to get new neighbours

Almost six years ago I blogged about the possibilities of getting some new housing and regeneration into the Frederick Street area of South Shields, I opined then that the main reason that this once thriving retail area was in steady decline was because it had lost its customer base, and that happened forty years ago in 1972 when a larger part of the “long streets” were demolished. Other than the small Lytton Park estate very few other houses were erected on the empty land, car ownership increased dramatically, people were more willing to travel further to find the type of shopping that they wanted,  and the traders in Frederick Street began a gargantuan struggle for survival.

The neglect for the area by South Tyneside’s Labour council, and indeed its predecessors typified the reasons why I could not follow in the footsteps of my peers and support the party with any sort of unthinking blind loyalty that they showed. There were quite a few areas in South Tyneside that were allowed to just lay fallow over the course of those years including huge swathes of the riverside in Jarrow and Hebburn, and the site of the old coke ovens at Monkton. However in the last decade more effort has been put into economic regeneration, we now have modern business parks in Monkton and Boldon Colliery, the old St. Hilda’s colliery site houses a good business hub, the old Harton colliery site had earlier been replaced with housing, the Cleadon Park estate has been thoroughly reformed with a mix of social and private housing, housing has been much improved in West Harton and smaller housing  developments in Jarrow and Hebburn are much welcomed. Yet Frederick Street continues to decline and struggle and provides a visual eyesore on the main approach route into South Shields, it should be remembered as one of the great failures of the Labour Party to provide for the future of this area, this forty year legacy of crumbling ruin and economic heartache ought to have been an electoral battleground but it never was, and never shall be as long as sons and daughters blindly follow the dictums of their parents to vote Labour, the party will be quietly appreciative of this blind support.

That area of local politics, which I will refer to as “town development” took a great change under the leadership of Paul Waggott and has been continued under the present leadership of Iain Malcolm and the riverside regeneration plan is now one of Labour’s centre piece policies in South Tyneside, there is a realisation that we cannot hold on to our past and must build for the aspirations of future residents to provide a modern borough capable of attracting inward economic investment, and I think that they now see the the size of the problems stored up for them in the past after years of introspective navel gazing and subsequent neglect. I have always welcomed this new plan for the riverside and the Rekendyke ward, bringing a mix of housing and business opportunities to the area that really represented the heart of South Shields as it grew away from the market area in the late 1800s, for me it just cannot happen soon enough. So it is with some pleasure that I now see the signs going up in Frederick Street and what remains of Wallpole Street telling us that “this property has been acquired by South Tyneside Council for regeneration”. To be fair this process of acquiring properties is the most difficult part of the plan, some leases are longer than others and problematic to negotiate, some owners feel as though they may get a better deal by hanging on until the last minute (unfortunately they will not, their properties will be bought at a low price using CPOs) but once all of the land deals are made we can then see more rapid progress.

I took the opportunity of getting in touch with Cllr. Michael Clare, the Lead Member for this policy area and also one of the Rekendyke ward councillors to ask him about the level of progress being made and to try and ascertain what level of retail footage will remain in Frederick Street to service all of the new houses that will be build around it.

As you know the Council has been and continues to acquire land along the riverside and within the Trinity area.

Frederick Street is an integral part of the Riverside Regeneration Project and considered a high priority by the Council at both Officers and Political levels.

We are at last after considerable time at a sensitive stage in discussions with developers and landlords within and around Frederick Street. Local Councillors have recently met with Frederick Street Traders Representatives and the dialogue and support has been really positive about our ambitions for Frederick Street.

So in a nutshell, yes, Frederick Street does have a future as a retail area and businesses will continue to have our support. As part of the dialogue with Traders we have promised to maintain strong lines of communication with them at key milestones.

We are keen to continue to promote the street.

Curly, I believe you also have the capacity and network to help us in that regard and I personally would welcome your support.

As always, there seems to be confusion at the scale of development along Frederick Street.

For the avoidance of doubt demolition will only take place on the southern section. The northern section is being retained and developed with the emphasis on mixed retail.

The Council are currently negotiating with owners/retailers/landlords on the southern end. Those negotiations are at different stages for differing reasons some more complex than others and sensitive to those parties impacted by them.

We are however committed to this regeneration project.

There is one small cryptic clue in Michael’s words -which I hope I am reading correctly – “The northern section is being retained and developed with the emphasis on mixed retail”. I am anxious to know what sort of development is envisaged to modernise what will be the “rump” of this once fine shopping thoroughfare? By retaining the northern part we are assuming that some sort of works can extend its lifetime even further, and some sort of developments can be made which will shield from our eyes the unsightly mess which can all to readily be seen from the dual carriageway behind it as we enter town. I am also presently concerned that some of the properties in the northern part of Frederick Street may no longer be fit for purpose, or indeed still standing by the time the plan finally reaches fruition.

One of South Tyneside council’s Chief Project Engineers told me:

The site is 5.3 hectares (13 acres) in size and already has outline planning permission for 401 new homes.

The Council is currently running a competitive tender process to select a private sector developer to develop a mix of 2, 3 and 4 bedroom family homes on the site.  This will include  a proportion of homes for social rent.  Six national housebuilders submitted formal expressions of interest in the development, and the tender process is working towards shortlisting these down to select a preferred developer.  We expect the developer to be appointed in June, 2012.  I’m not able to give you details of the bidders or their proposals as the public procurement process has to be kept confidential.  The proposed plans will be available when the developer has been selected.

To facilitate comprehensive redevelopment, privately owned properties in the southern part of Frederick Street will need to be acquired by the Council.  The Council has already started a programme of acquisitions and demolitions through negotiations with the individual landowners.  We are also working with existing businesses to assist with their relocation where this is possible.

It is expected that construction work for the housing development will start in early 2013.  It is unlikely that all the acquisitions will have been completed by this time, so this will continue in parallel with starting the first phase of development.  It is expected that the full development will take about 5 years.

The northern part of Frederick Street (north of Walpole Street) will remain as part of the neighbourhood centre.  One of the Council’s requirements for the development is that the future development is physically integrated with the existing retail and service centre.

The emphasis is mine, I keep hoping to read little secrets in these exchanges, I am optimistic you know,  and keep thinking that the current part of the old street just cannot be left as it is to sit in a new housing development. Nor can the current visual impact of this gateway route into the town be left as it is. The rear of Frederick Street has as much visual appeal as a landfill site, and this simply will not be acceptable in 2018.

Whilst the street has continued its decline a number of enterprising young businesses have begun to flourish, there has been a rapid growth in take away food shops and cafes, which whilst not fully replicating the culinary delights of Ocean Road are coming close. The street has some of the finest Indian and Bangladeshi food outlets in the town now as well as shops to satisfy those who wish to purchase the ingredients to cook their own. Many of these businesses may want to remain in the Frederick Street area in the years ahead of the new developments and it would be a great pity to see their enterprising work lost, one looks and hopes that premises with names such as The Phoenix Cafe have a prophetic sound and that the mix of retail development in the future will surely give the impression of an area reborn and rising from the ashes like a Phoenix. One would hope that the decline had finally been arrested.

Only then, by circa 2020, will we be able to look back and begin to forget about the near fifty year neglect by a succession of mainly Labour councils who appeared to care little about the legacy that they had left for their children. One has to congratulate the current team of planners for their foresight, and the disparate opposition in South Tyneside for providing their support (for surely they had NO alternative plans of their own during those years), and now we must trust that property owners fully engage with the proposals and negotiate calmly and timely to ensure that the best deals are made on behalf of themselves and South Tyneside Council to ensure that this development along the riverside proceeds with utmost speed.

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Written by curly

February 26, 2012 at 1:23 pm

An big old boiler churns out hot air

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South Shields Town Hall heating argument won’t cool down

Perhaps he has a point, but surely it should have been argued and publicised last year when the item was up for discussion, not now when the work to install the new heating system is almost completed.

It always seemed to me, in the past and more recently, that many rooms in South Shields Town Hall were far too warm when the heating was on, perhaps because it was not possible to control the the climate in individual rooms, hopefully the new system will have better controls to effectively consume less energy in areas where it is not needed. In the council chamber and committee rooms what we need is a system to reduce the amount of hot air emitted at certain times – particularly as elections approach!

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Written by curly

February 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Dreaming in kitsch

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Obsession with tourism must be troubling me

I woke fairly early this morning after a long and troubling dream in which I had just witnessed the opening in fifteen years time of the newest South Shields entertainment initiative. Iain Malcolm South Tyneside’s (by then) veteran Labour Leader had seen his latest dream come to fruition, somehow he had cobbled together enough European and UK grants in a public/private partnership to have the old telephone exchange in Crossgate, South Shields transformed into a neo-gothic styled restaurant and night club, South Tyneside Council were to get first call on use of the place and a private operator would use it at all other times. The whole of the interior had been stripped out by a force of new apprentices especially employed by the private contractor as part of the scheme, the exterior had been clad in granite and limestone and people were impressed at how much it resembled the architecture of the Town Hall in nearby Westoe Road with its solid oak main doors and traditionally styled stained glass windows. However it was the inside of the place which really caught everyone’s attention, this was South Shields’ tribute to Westminster Hall, a magnificent chamber supported by huge columns and a fake fan vault ceiling, this was to be the most opulent medieval banqueting experience in the north-east! Malcolm had ensured that old craftsman ship had been revived to some extent with carved English oak and carpentry skills taught to young lads, others were passing on the skills of the stonemason, it also housed the most modern computer controlled laser lighting system and state of the art sound system, within fifteen minutes the main hall is transformed into a multi faceted entertainment complex, yes we all agreed this was a tremendous achievement in fifteen years. The levels of kitsch were unbelievable.

Why not, we all thought, tourism had grown as a significant part of the north east economy since the dark days of 2012 when it only accounted for around £200m worth of business, these days we are reaping the rewards of over £500m per year from visitors who come to see amongst other things our enlarged Roman Fort with its added reconstructed walls, the new swimming pool and alongside it the new leisure centre opposite the beach continue to thrive even in wet weather. The multiplex cinema and outlet shopping on the Dragon had proved to be a big hit, and even Jarrow had benefited from huge upgrades and a new visitor centre for St. Paul’s church where the history of Bede is now a major pull. Pulling it all together is the new fleet of privately operated electric mini buses transporting folks from one attraction to the other, plans are also in place by a local taxi company to replace the whole of its fleet of cars with the latest Nissan electrically driven model. They would be necessary as petrol driven vehicles were no longer allowed in the town centre – that had killed off the old car parking debates ten years ago –  and visitors were “encouraged” to use the park and ride facilities near White Mare Pool. Furthermore the expanded Ocean Beach Leisure Park and the illuminated sea front was drawing almost as many visitors as Blackpool, and they all had comfortable beds to sleep in at the new hotels at the Pier Head and Harton Staithes, which in turn had sparked a resurgence of the guest house trade on Lawe Road and Seafield Terrace.

Malcolm was beaming in his old age on the opening night as two hundred local dignitaries dined in the splendour of the new Cloisters On Crossgate, after a five course meal they were entertained by South Shields latest X Factor winner Geordie Robson who had seen his first two albums go “platinum” in the download charts within a month of release, the event was broadcast live on NETV and on South Tyneside Council’s website which was now enjoying the experience of having 10000 visitors for its monthly half hour meeting of the Borough Council where Cabinet decisions are rubber stamped. Yes, we all felt proud, an odd mix of Keynesian economics and private enterprise was driving money into the area, things could only get better (good grief Robson was even crooning that old chestnut on opening night).

Then I woke up!

With a house full of teenage guests, the sight of a blocked WC at 08:00 was no fun at all, and the temperature of that water was a complete shock to the system!

I put the dream on the back burner.

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South Shields call centre back in use

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Former Garland’s building sees new occupiers

Good to note that (without a lot of publicity) the former CJ Garland’s call centre on Long Row, South Shields is now in the process of firing up its telephone lines again, as a local “outsourcing operation” has moved from the old Co-op building in Jarrow to occupy part of the controversial building behind River Drive. The company has a number of accounts and plans to increase its account handling capacity and “seats” with the move to larger premises.

It is unlikely that they will require the whole of the former CJ Garlands site, and others may well be invited to occupy other parts of the building as landlords increase their urgency to see some returns in a market still not fully affected by the economic downturn.

One hopes that any levels of local protest will be far quieter than previously heard when Garland’s moved into the riverside site, having got used to neighbours once I’m sure they can do it again, after all the chance to create new jobs in South Tyneside must surely be a goal for most people?

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Written by curly

January 6, 2012 at 9:37 am

2012 predictions

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Welcome back my friends.

First a bit of music to cheer you all up, and may I extend a big welcome to you all as we begin a New Year in South Tyneside’s first and oldest political blog, I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that it brings some sort of cheer to you. I cannot promise that output from this desk will be any more frequent this year than it was last, a new lifestyle here leaves me a bit less time to write and my passion for photography at South Shields Daily Pictures also competes for my online time. However, with a long drum roll let’s get started with things for 2012.

National and international predictions

Financial and political pressure within the EU continue to build as a realistic solution to the Eurozone crisis fails to materialise, as referendums in Greece and Ireland  initially reject further austerity measures relating to the latest bail out plans. Calls to remove these countries from the Eurozone are thwarted as both nations are forced to hold a second vote which confirms their compliance with the Commission’s wishes. Massive unrest on the streets of Athens leads, for the first time, to a pan European peacekeeping force being deployed in Greece to keep its citizens under control.

David Cameron decides that Britain will not contribute any personnel to the new force, and further reduces Britain’s contribution to the IMF, stating that our financial problems require us to keep more of our finances at home. Nick Clegg threatens to pull the Lib-Dems out of the coalition in protest at the Conservatives outright hostility to the new EU plans designed to bring stability to the markets, however because of Labour’s weak position under Ed Miliband a combination of Tory and rebellious Labour MPs win the day in a Confidence debate in the House of Commons, thus tying the Lib-Dems into the coalition. Rebel Labour MPs claim this was the best way to ensure the total demise of Lib- Dem MPs at the next general election whilst buying more time for Labour to reorganise.

In America President Obama wins a second term, although very narrowly, after providing logistical and intelligence support to Israel when they successfully bombed a number of Iranian nuclear facilities the week before President Ahmedinijad was expected to announce the testing of his country’s first nuclear weapon.

In Russia Vladimir Putin is elected to lead the nation again, but there are strong doubts about the integrity of the elections, massive unrest in Russian cities is dealt with firmly and harshly, and following warmer than normal friendly talks with neighbouring states regarding trade agreements and energy supplies, observers begin fearing for the independence of the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) as nationalist parties there see a massive rise in popularity after the EU’s enforced austerity measures spark riots.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announces a new treaty with Iran, promising to help them rebuild the facilities destroyed by the Israelis. Increased  defence spending in the secretive far eastern state has resulted in a larger American military presence in Australia’s Northern Territory and the permanent patrol of a full battle ready US fleet in international waters close to the Korean peninsular.

China continues to be the world’s leading economy but still shows little appetite for increasing it’s spending on imports, preferring instead to produce good quality copies of foreign article for home consumption, Obama’s pleas for relaxations in China’s trade policies fall on deaf ears.

Local predictions.

The case in San Mateo County Court in California involving three South Tyneside councillors and an officer rumbles on seemingly interminably with no prospect of either a firm result and conclusion, or a commencement of proceedings in a British court. The costs of the matter are used as a political weapon during the local government elections in May.

Fifteen South Shields boys and girls attend the X Factor auditions in Newcastle but not a single one makes any progress, meanwhile late in the year Little Mix release an album to mixed reviews which does well in the charts but does not reach No. 1, fans had a liking for the new material but complained that five covers in the album were probably too many. As the year closes Little Mix prepare for their second UK headlining tour. Meanwhile Joe McElderry had released an album firmly in the dance genre after expressing disappointment over the sales of his Christmas Classics collection of cover songs, he also decided to accept the offer of a part in a West End musical and will be appearing in panto at the end of the year at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal.

South Tyneside’s jobless figures continue to rise although not at the massive rate that some had feared, local employment prospects are boosted by the announcement from Nissan of their decision to build a further two new models at their massive plant in Washington.

In the local elections in May Labour takes an absolute stranglehold on local politics as virtually all opposition in South Tyneside is wiped off the map. Cllr Geraldine White loses her seat to Labour in Fellgate and Hedworth, Lawrence Nolan fails to hold Harton for the Progressives after the retirement of Jimmy Capstick, the Liberal Democrats disappear as Joe Abbot loses to Labour in Hebburn North, Labour regain Horsely Hill in a close contest as Independent Alliance councillor Gordon Finch loses his seat, in Monkton John Hodgson somehow manages to fend off Labour’s challenge with only a handful of votes to spare, Labour make it three in a row in West Park as Enid Hetherington ends the Progressive Association’s long tenure there, Labour pick up Westoe at the expense of Allen Branley, and further legal challenges ensue after Ahmed Khan narrowly loses the decision against Labour’s John Anglin in the Beacon and Bents ward of South Shields.

Labour’s only other failure on a remarkable night was in Cleadon Village and East Boldon, where Conservative Councillor Jeff Milburn retained his seat with a much  reduced majority.

Following further shop closures in King Street, South Shields, South Tyneside Council announced an updated plan for a shoppers car parking scheme which gave two hours of free town centre parking, charges would only be applied after two hours and could be refunded if shoppers were spending more than £5 with local “partner” businesses. In a further sign of Labour’s pragmatic approach to working with the coalition government council Leader Iain Malcolm announced his intention of shaving an additional £45m from South Tyneside’s spending as he intended to announce a first ever reduction in council taxes to help local people rebuild their economy by putting money back into their own pockets to spend.

On the sporting scene, South Shields Mariners are in disarray after the sale of Filtrona Park , a late season slide in form saw them narrowly avoid relegation and their future is now in serious doubt as new houses are about to be built on their former ground. Until they find a new home their existence in the Northern League cannot be guaranteed.

In the Premier League Mike Ashley showed no inclination to spend on Newcastle United during the January window, as once again he discussed the possibility of selling the club at the end of the season. The Magpies strong start to the campaign was cancelled out when striker Demba Ba suffered a serious injury, this coupled with the sales of Tiote and Krul meant that Pardew’s men had a late season loss of form which saw them end the campaign in 15th. place.

Rivals  Sunderland were boosted by the surprise arrival of a top name striker and a full back which pleased the red and white half of South Shields. Meanwhile Ryan Noble’s emergence as a Premier League threat helped Martin O’Neill cement his status as a “legend” as the team went on a strong run towards the end of the season finishing above the Magpies in 9th. place. Owner Ellis Short announced that further funds would be made available to the Irishman for the summer transfer window, once again Sunderland are considering the possibility of extending the capacity at The Stadium of Light.

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23 years on – not a lot has changed

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Is South Shields conservative with a small C?

Yesterday Mrs. Curly and I celebrated our 23rd. wedding anniversary and a brief look back over those years reveals a time of relative contentment and steady, rather than radical, change in most things in life here in South Shields.

We were married in St. Mark and St. Cuthberts church in Quarry Lane a ten minute walk from Mrs. Curly’s parent’s house on JimmyForeman’s favourite estate, that estate has now been demolished and replaced with a pleasant mix of private and social housing, the in-laws now live only a five minute walk from the church where only the incumbent has changed, the gardens in Cleadon Park still look just as lovely in summer! The function room where we enjoyed our reception at The Nook is still there although under different ownership, the taxi firm who provided the wedding cars still operates out of South Shields town centre and we still live in our first home, although we started adding the first of two lovely children in 1997. I have since taken early retirement from the employer that I was with in 1988 after serving them for 23 years, they still operate from the same location in the town centre where I was fortunate enough to find a job in 1985 having been made redundant at a builder’s merchant a month previously. My father and brother still live in the same locations although sadly my mother has passed away, we have watched our children grow into young people attending the same schools that they started at, although one has been upgraded during the Building Schools for the Future project. Today I will go out and photograph the Great North Run just as I did 23 years ago, it has sort of grown in size like me!

In the past 23 years the approach to South Shields along the Western Approach dual carriageway has altered little at all until this last year, the Eureka is no longer there and a small house building scheme is under way, the old Plessey factory has at last disappeared and land has become available of redevelopment along the river frontage of Rekendyke. We still enjoy the facilities of Temple Park Centre, even though they are long past their “best before” date, and for other leisure pursuits the West Park and the two Marine Parks are still there, the South Marine Park looking rather better after its restoration. The rest of the sea front in South Shields will not be radically different until the swimming pool is erected and in use.

Things may have been different of course if certain schemes had been pushed through against some local opposition, if circumstances had allowed faster redevelopment of other projects, if recession had not provided a stumbling block, but I am perhaps becoming more mellow in my older years realising that although we have had a Labour council throughout that period many times their hands have been tied by outside influences and the Chancellors who have held the purse strings. However, until this year, they did manage to raise our council taxes every single year! To be fair  most of the visible changes in South Shields have occurred during the period of the current leadership of South Tyneside’s Labour council after many years of holding the ship as steady as possible.

Compare South Tyneside to any of our neighbours over the last 23 years and you just lose track of how swiftly Newcastle, Gateshead, North Tyneside, and Sunderland have change in appearance over that same period, we have put a small housing development and two larger buildings on the riverside beside our Market Place and both buildings ran into major opposition! I often wonder if part of the problem with the canny folks o’ Shields is that they don’t embrace change, at least not major change!

Are we inherently conservative with a small C in South Shields?

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Written by curly

September 18, 2011 at 9:38 am

Regeneration – follow up post

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BT South Tyneside

As close as possible to the impression

In my last post a Mr. MiCawber asked if it was possible to get pictures that compare the new BT South Tyneside HQ on Harton Staithes, South Shields with the artist’s impression published about four years ago at the time that proposals and consultations were getting underway. Another commenter asked if we could have some involvement from youngsters who would then feel more empowered about their own futures and how they can help shape South Shields. Well, a bit of good news on both fronts for you in a moment.

First of all, thanks to some readers, we have tracked down these pictures which you see today, the picture above shows the new BT building as it nears completion and below you can see the artist’s impression before the building project began, in this impression the BT building sits in a new Riverside Park designed to link the River Tyne with the Market Place and town centre, whilst providing the opportunities for people to enjoy walking by the river in a pleasant environment which provides the views to which they have become accustomed over the last few years.

BT South Tyneside artist's impression

One does NOT have to stretch the imagination too far to realise that this BT building is not going to be a blot on the landscape as suggested by many of the respondents to The Shields Gazette!

Just before the summer holidays began BT wrote to every head teacher in South Tyneside inviting their pupils to take part in an art competition to mark the opening of the new BT Building, the theme for the students to follow is what they think the riverside area will eventually look like after the regeneration and rebuilding processes are complete, this is future stakeholding at work tying in the imagination of youngsters and encouraging them to take a view of the future look of their town, it is to be applauded. Winners will see their work framed and mounted inside this new business centre and be taken on a tour of the building at the official opening event, their will also be cash prizes for the winning schools. I seem to recall that this was one of the first suggestions that I made to development officers at the first of their road shows in 2007, a good point here being that it is both important and rewarding to take some part in the consultation process rather than ignoring it.

This is a major redevelopment in South Shields and covers a huge area of riverside frontage from the Market area all the way along to the old Readhead’s shipyard (Aker McNulty as it is now) and so far there has been NO political objections in principle to the proposals and designs so far formulated, it would be an almighty shame now for some local councillors to start bawling and shouting now that the first major building is almost completed, they have had ample opportunity to make their views heard over the last four years, and if they had nothing to contribute over that period then it shows they were incapable of even looking at the horizon, let alone past it!`As for the respondents to articles in The Shields Gazette recently, they must be blinkered and completely ignorant of the plans that have slowly developed over recent years, and clearly they have NOT taken any interest in how those plans were arrived at, it worries me greatly that their pretty silly objections may gain some sort of credence through a wider online readership, I do NOT feel that they are representative of the majority of residents in South Shields or South Tyneside who, I believe, will come to like the new more modern ambience that our riverside will provide in due course.

Surely when it comes to riverside views they do not want to go back to the good old days of this?

Church Walk, South Shields

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Written by curly

September 5, 2011 at 9:28 am