GARAGE and factory unit owners whose businesses stand in the way of a £100m South Shields town centre “masterplan”, say they fear for their futures.
As part of the plans, a new retail “quarter” is proposed in Fowler Street West, on a site now predominantly occupied by industrial outlets, many of which have been based in the area for decades.
The council has already acquired the former Streamline garage in Burrow Street, but negotiations with many other businesses have yet to begin.
Some units have also been derelict for years – including the unsightly Tynedale Car Sales outlet.
Meanwhile, existing traders say they would want to remain close to the town centre – rather than be re-located to more isolated industrial units.
Redevelopment of the area is one of the latter phases of the South Shields 365 “masterplan” – with work on the site unlikely to begin before 2018.
However, businesses are keen to clarify their futures well in advance of that date.
David Burke only took over at the Eddie Burke Bodyshop in Franklin Street after the retirement of his father, Eddie, last year.
He said: “I’ve been working for this business since I left school 29 years ago. We are a family business which has had a base in the town for 40 years. I just took over last year and I don’t have a clue what’s going on. We think we’re going to go, but we’re still very much up in the air.
“We benefit from being in the town centre and being next to the shops and the Metro. I wouldn’t want to end up on an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere.”
It was a view echoed by John Carey, owner of John Carey Motors, in William Street, which trades in conjunction with the Clutch Centre, owned by Michael Moon.
Mr Carey said: “I have a well-established business here and having this uncertainty is not good.
“I just rent, but as far as I know the owner has not been contacted by the council.”
Peter Maughan, owner of Beacon Electrical in Franklin Street, added: “I don’t know for sure, but this phase of the development is not expected to start until 2018.
“I’m South Shields born and bred and I’m not against the redevelopment, but I think the council need to approach this with a lot of thought.
“Four years might seem a long time to find a new site, but it has to be the right location and that can take time to find.”
Council bosses have indicated that it was “likely” powers of compulsory purchase may have to be evoked to acquire some properties – if negotiations with individual traders fail.
A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “South Shields 365 is all about creating a vibrant town centre with thriving local businesses, so we are doing everything we can to support those who will need to move.
“We very much understand that this can be unsettling for businesses that are affected, so the council is providing a tailored package of support for each individual business, to help them identify alternative sites and manage their move.
“The council always prefers to acquire properties by agreement if that is possible, and discussions are under way with that in mind.
“The area behind Fowler Street is in the final phase of the programme, but we are keen to resolve these issues early to minimise any uncertainty for businesses.
“If any local business has questions about the proposals, we would encourage them to call Harry Alder, in our regeneration team, on 0191 424 7679.”