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Archive for the ‘Transport’ Category

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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New South Tyneside mayoral car

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Audi A8

Vorsprung durch Technik

In a week which has been full of further austerity packages both in the UK and Europe, yes folks the coalition government is failing to meet its own financial targets and must do more of what their EU masters demand, it is good to see that South Tyneside Council is about to help out the employment situation of the Germanic peoples by investing in a new car for the borough’s mayor. The old Volvo, on a “55 plate” with less than a reported 20000 miles on the clock has been sacked,  rather like “agent Bruce” and replaced in a jiffy by a model already regarded as experienced, with a good track record,  and up for the job. Just a shame that we couldn’t have gone for a luxury Nissan model and support the jobs of hundreds of South Tyneside men and women, it need not have been one of these perhaps one of the models made in Washington might have sufficed – better than exporting jobs abroad again.

Inside sources tell me that the new black Audi A8 is currently being prepared for use at Middlefields in South Shields, receiving the custom livery and coat of arms that a mayoral car must have whilst the poor old Volvo will be sent for auction “somewhere”. By my reckoning someone will be getting a real bargain as the leasing company releases this asset onto the market.

Of course the cars are leased – yes……surely?

Vorsprung durch Technik for Geordies.

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South Shields and the Great North Run

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Red Arrows at the Great North RunGreat news (for photographers) – Red Arrows will fly

Readers will be very aware that I’m a keen photographer and never miss many chances to promote South Shields and the north east of England with my images, particularly through my main photoblog South Shields Daily Pictures. The Great North Run with its 50000 entrants jogging down the 13.1 miles from Newcastle each year is one of those events that really has helped to put South Shields on the map with great TV coverage from the BBC and massive news coverage in the media over the Sunday and Monday each year. So it was with some concern that I viewed the possibility that the RAF Red Arrows might not have been able to fly at the event this year following the investigation into the tragic death of Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging who was killed at an air show in Dorset last month. However those fears have been allayed with the announcement that the famous Hawk trainer display team will complete all of their remaining engagements this year and will fly over the Tyne Bridge in the eight plane “missing man” formation, I am still unclear whether or not they will fly a full formation over South Shields as it is reported that the Red Arrows ground commander, Red 10 – also known as Graeme Bagnell – will be running the race himself, adding an extra poignancy to the display. The Red Arrows are expected above the finishing line in South Shields at 13:15 Sunday 18th. September.

Having seen the huge Great North Run village being steadily erected on The Leas over the past ten days, and the wreckage wrought by the remnants of hurricane Katia , it is indeed good news that the event will have its usual shape and compliment of attractions. As normal, hundreds of competitors will camp in South Shields over the weekend utilising the two caravan parks and the Bents Park, and many will also be staying in our few hotels and many guest houses, such a shame that we didn’t have sufficient facilities for many more of them to enjoy a full weekend here. The visiting competitors from around the UK create themselves a good party atmosphere from Friday afternoon through to Sunday evening, and for amateur photographers South Shields offers exceptional opportunities to add to your portfolio with celebrities, internationally known athletes, TV personalities, and the RAF Red Arrows all waiting to be snapped.

My best hints and tips include staying away from the finish line unless you are really familiar with the local layout, you will only get a few seconds worth of chances to photograph the winners, and find a way in to the inner part of the course before the runners reach South Shields. Getting around on the inside of the course is relatively easy with a few good positions granting ease of access for photographers. Try these to capture both the leading runners and/or the massed fun runners:

  • Roundabout at the junction of John Reid Road (A1300) and Newcastle Road (A194)
  • Roundabout at junction of John Reid Road and   Winskell Road
  • Roundabout at junction of John Reid Road and Boldon Lane
  • Junction of John Reid Road and McAnany Avenue
  • Roundabout at junction of John Reid Road and King George Road (A1018)
  • Roundabout at junction of Prince Edward Road and Sunderland Road – Harton Nook
  • Roundabout at junction of Prince Edward Road and Marsden Lane (B1301) – Marsden Inn
  • Foot of Redwell Lane at junction with Coast Road (A183)
  • Blackberry Hills (accessed from Hertford Avenue at rear of Lincoln Road), please park considerately here it is residential.

From these locations, easily travelled by bicycle or car, you will get plenty of colour fill shots, good crowd shots, and excellent chances to get close to the athletes as they near the finish, you will also find other entertainment and side shows to fill your memory cards with, I’d suggest taking at least 2 X 2 Gb memory cards as you will fire a lot of frames.

Best positions for shooting the Red Arrows include Blackberry Hills (where I took the above shot from in 2009), or if you are on the “outside” of the course, Souter Lighthouse makes a great backdrop and gives a good chance to combine the Red Arrows with the piers at the mouth of the Tyne. Other good spots, particularly if you have a DSLR and a long lens, include the south pier looking towards Trow Rocks, top of the South Marine Park to catch the planes over the piers, and the top of the North Marine Park.

Some other hints and tips – look for the unusual, especially amongst the spectators and fans. Try and capture the whole feel of the environment, this is as much about feet and legs as it is about celebs, besides they pass so fast you might miss them! If you are using either a compact or a DSLR set your camera on aperture priority at around f16 and try and get some slower shutter speeds to introduce some motion blur to your shots, and if the weather happens to be bright and sunny remember to take a neutral density filter to cut down the light. Otherwise, set your camera to shutter priority mode at around 1/500th second or faster to freeze the action, or use a sports mode if you have one. Get your camera down to ground level now and then to capture a wider vista of massed runners on the road. If you are going to get down at the finish line don’t stop shooting just because the Red Arrows have finished their display, there are loads of opportunities to capture families reuniting with runners, tired and aching athletes and the elated looks of those with their T shirts and medals.

After the event be aware that there will be transport difficulties as thousands of competitors and visitors make their way out of the town, another good reason for hanging back and getting those extra valuable shots that tell the whole story. Be patient and don’t be in too much of a hurry to get back to your PC to process the pictures, and once you do make a start, don’t be afraid to try a few in black and white, it conveys the mood and the story possibly even better than colour.

If you are coming to South Shields for the Great North Run have a great entertaining time, be safe, and make the most of it, hope you all return again soon.

You can see my 2009 series of pictures starting from here, just keep clicking on the right hand arrow to move forward.

Happy shooting everyone!

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Written by curly

September 14, 2011 at 10:16 am

This will kill the town!

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Beach Road, South Shields 16.45 17 August 2011

Beach Road, South Shields 16:45 17th. August 2011

THE introduction of pay and display parking meters near South Marine Park in South Shields will deter visitors coming to the town, critics have claimed……..

Coun Ahmed Khan, Independent Alliance representative for Beacon and Bents, has claimed parking charges were becoming a “cash cow” for the council and predicted that the cost of the residents’ parking permit would spiral year on year.

He said: “The top and bottom is that there is no such thing as a rationalised parking strategy.

“This is purely about one thing, and one thing only, that’s generating extra revenue for the council.

“Increasingly, motorists are being taxed in all kind of ways and it’s becoming obvious that they are, in effect, cash cows, that the council feels can be milked for every last drop.

“This scheme is just the tip of the iceberg. In the next two or three years we are going to see a plethora of these type of schemes, introduced whether or not residents or businesses want them.”

Nice to see that Cllr. Khan is agreeing with me on at least one thing, however I do disagree that these schemes will kill off the town or deter visitors, I took this picture less than an hour ago, it has been a fairly dreary grey and damp Monday in the middle of August with no great reason to be visiting South Shields. Yet, as this picture clearly demonstrates there are only three spaces left available at the end of the afternoon, people are obviously using these spaces and happily (well, perhaps grudgingly) paying for them, even at this late stage of the afternoon usage of these parking spaces is very much as you would normally find on a Monday. Drivers have not been deterred!

We are still generating visitors to the town centre and generating needed revenue, however as the world stares down the gun barrel of economic disaster caused by the building of debt mountains by ever profligate governments, shouldn’t we be looking at every possible way to stop our spending instead of squeezing more money from the people at the bottom of the pile, we are after all the ones you will increasingly rely upon to provide the Holy Grail of economic growth!

The other bi-product generated by this move is the self publicity for a man named as the defendant in a USA court over a pretty unsavoury business, a man who so far has failed to propose any sensible or useful policies that may help South Tyneside Council out during the current economic crisis, and as far as we are aware has failed to make a single policy proposal that has been accepted and could be said to “have made a difference”.

Own goals do not come cheaply.

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Written by curly

August 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Parking predictions

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South Tyneside Council to increase parking revenue in South Shields?

Now that “pay and display” parking is to become the norm in the bottom end of Beach Road South Shields, and despite the protestations or plans of Eric Pickles to end the “war against motorists”, I predict that South Tyneside Council will within a matter of the next two years extend the areas over which it can charge motorists to park in the town. We have already discovered that our parking charges are reasonably economic compared to other tourist haunts in the north-east, so I see an opportunity for our Labour councillors to increase revenue by extending the pay and display areas just as soon as they think it is opportune to do so.

Extra revenue is always welcome to a local authority, and if it is gathered in places where there is a captive market and they can claim that they are attempting to reduce vehicle congestion, then why won’t they? I predict that Bents Park Road, Seafield Terrace, Lawe Road, and even Ocean Road will get to see the familiar machines and more “enforcement officers” all in the due course of time.

It will be a war against Eric Pickles!

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Written by curly

August 1, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Enterprise Zone good news for North East

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logoTyneside not forgotten in Budget

One of the better pieces of news from this week’s Budget was the announcement, from a Tory Chancellor who some decried as wanting to kill off the north-east, of the creation of two “enterprise zones” for the region, one to be in Teeside and the other to be on Tyneside, the exact locations to be determined by the members of the respective Local Enterprise Partnerships. I am glad that the announcement has received a “warmish” reception from the Labour Leader of South Tyneside Council Iain Malcolm who said:

“Clearly we have a decision to make, and we have until May until we need to advise the Department for Business on where we want this, but it is a welcome situation.”

The legacy of the last Enterprise Zones created in the 1980 Budget from Nigel Lawson is mixed with evidence of some lasting success and evidence of job transfers where employment had moved into an Enterprise Zone but had been lost from its previous location, from 1981 to 1986 the Enterprise Zones had cost nearly £300 million, but 2,800 firms were established in them, employing over 63,000 people. Some estimate that only around 13000 net jobs were created in the areas attracted by low local tax rates but the government at the time probably saw low tax revenue as being far better  than no tax revenue at all. Some locations such as the Merryhill Shopping Centre in Dudley, the Metro Centre in Gateshead, and the Canary Wharf redevelopment in London are seen as longer term successes where the employment provided probably equalled or bettered the employment that had previously been lost.

For us here in South Tyneside the location of the North East Enterprise Zone will be of paramount importance, as will the transition towards “wind down” as tax breaks and incentives inevitably need to be phased out, the hope being that capital flight will not occur as it did in Scotland in the 80s and to some extent other parts of the UK. Local councils will need to budget carefully in those areas where revenue will be lessened during the life of an Enterprise Zone and then carefully nurtured after the wind down in order to keep any new net jobs and encourage continued economic growth.

One of the most important factors will be the close proximity to the A19 with its new cross Tyne link and the availability of  The Port of Tyne as a major logistics facility, the partnerships arranged with other local authorities will need to be strong and effective in countering the claims of those on the north bank of the Tyne who may well have closer links to government than we do on the south side, although it ought to be appreciated that Cllr. Malcolm has been wisely networking with Conservative and Lib-Dem ministers for at least the past two years from a time when it became clear that Labour would have difficulty in winning an election under Gordon Brown’s leadership. His astute use of his business and political connections via lobbying firm Sovereign Strategy will have put him in a good place to promote South Tyneside as a place to do business, and a borough worthy of continued government support on whatever scale could be managed.

The Local Enterprise Partnership for the north east comprises members of seven councils covering areas of Durham, Tyne Wear, and Northumberland and it will be chaired by former Sage CEO Paul Walker, who after 16 years at the helm of the company was one of the longest serving CEOs of a FTSE100 listed company at the time of his departure, and it is important to recognise that the driving force behind this vehicle will have years of business and enterprise experience, rather than someone steeped in public sector service.

So now the difficult discussions need to begin on where we want an Enterprise Zone to be established, early suggestions include Wallsend with its green renewable energy plan, and land near the Nissan plant at Washington, I’m not sure if it is a requisite that one major zone needs to be created or whether it is possible to outline two or three separate areas that can be dovetailed together to provide a better mix of opportunities, in which case I’d like to see the Monkton business area in South Tyneside expanded to participate in the scheme. Wherever the LEP decides to locate the Enterprise Zone I believe that it is absolutely essential to look at the region’s infrastructure and quickly source more funding to improve the road networks that facilitate easy access to the A19 north and south of the Tyne to eradicate the “pinch points” that currently exist at Testo’s roundabout and the Silverlink, otherwise the eventual completion of the new Tyne Tunnel crossing will not provide as much relief as was first envisaged.

There is an opportunity being offered here for some sustained local economic growth which must not be missed, and our local council leaders need to be prepared to take bold and imaginative decisions which may shape the development of Tyneside for many years to come. They also need to be cognisant of the risks involved by the type of development allowed in the Enterprise Zone and how it impacts upon the livelihood of our existing town centres.

Do readers have any preferences or ideas about where and what type of development we would like to see from a north east Enterprise Zone?

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Stagecoach, South Shields

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Stagecoach, South Shields

On the Buses!

There is an interesting little story here if some journalist would like to get his/her teeth into it, (something to do with fuel costs and how it might affect the price of your ticket).

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Written by curly

February 5, 2011 at 5:51 pm