COUNCIL bosses are offering an olive branch to traders who could see their businesses relocated by a £100m regeneration plan for South Shields.
As part of the South Shields 365 plan, a new retail “quarter” is proposed in Fowler Street West – a site predominantly occupied by industrial outlets, many of which have been based in the area for decades.
In a bid to ease the fears of traders, many of whom believe the future of their businesses now hang in the balance, South Tyneside Council leader, Coun Iain Malcolm, has made a series of pledges.
He said every business will have the option of an individual meeting to discuss the plans and the timescale involved. He also said the council aims to ensure no business loses out because of the plan.
Coun Malcolm said: “This is a hugely ambitious plan and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the fortunes of the town centre.
“To bring about regeneration on this scale, it will be necessary to acquire properties in the renewal area, and we will ensure that this is done in the right way.
“Every business will have the option of an individual meeting to discuss the plans and timescales involved.
“The council and our agents have already contacted a number of owners, and every business in the regeneration area will be formally contacted by the end of the month.
“In terms of compensation, a guiding principle is that no business or owner is left financially better or worse off as a result of the council acquiring their property through compulsory purchase.”
The council’s economic growth team is already working with a number of businesses to help them match their requirements with suitable alternative premises in the town.
However, not all company owners remain convinced by the reassurance.
John Carey, owner of John Carey Motors, in William Street, which trades in conjunction with the Clutch Centre, owned by Michael Moon, is still doubtful.
He said: “I think I’d feel more reasured if Coun Malcolm would promise to recompense the income we are bound to lose when we have to move from our town centre locations to somewhere less suitable.”
David Burke, who only took over at the Eddie Burke Bodyshop in Franklin Street after the retirement of his father, Eddie, last year, says it’s still very early days.
He said: “Someone has been out to speak to us already but I’m still not sure yet what’s happening. It’s all up in the air and very early days.
“While there are claims we will be no better or worse off, I think we could very well be if I end up getting relocated to an industrial estate where nobody knows I am there.”
Coun Malcolm added: “This project is too important for us not to get right. We are determined to open up the town centre, attract big retailers and make it an exciting place to be.
“People will be able to see further progress with their own eyes before long, with work due to start on a new landmark building on the former Wouldhave House site later this year.”