DEMOLITION of a famous and much-loved South Tyneside shopping thoroughfare is a step closer to reality.
A developer has been appointed to flatten and then transform the southern end of Frederick Street at Laygate, South Shields.
In its place will emerge more than 220 new high-quality family homes, with work due to begin on the development this autumn.
Members of the council’s decision-making cabinet gave its agreement to the appointment of a developer earlier this month.
But the identity of the successful bidder is not being made public until all the necessary legal paperwork is completed.
Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing with the handful of traders yet to do financial deals with South Tyneside Council over the acquisition of their properties.
Today Frederick Street, a shopping area for more than a century, is a shadow of its former bustling, vibrant self.
Only a handful of retail outlets are still operating.
And with the vast majority of premises boarded up and run-down, the area has a ghostly feel for the last shoppers venturing out there.
Most of the remaining retailers who the Gazette spoke to are resigned to the area’s imminent demise.
That demise came a step closer last week after it was announced that Maxwells hardware store, which has traded in the street for decades, is to close its doors within weeks.
James Parkin, 54, who runs the street’s J.W Parkin and Sons furniture shop – previously Kents Furnishings – said: “A lot of people are under the impression that the place is already closed.
“I had an old lady in the other day who said she’d gone and bought a bed elsewhere because she heard that we were shut.
“The landlord of this premises is still in negotiations with the council, so I’m still up in the air as to where the future lies.
“I always said that once Maxwells closed its doors, then the street was done for. Now that is about to happen, it is only a matter of time.”
Businessman Jawad Hussain, who owns 40 units in the street, is still in negotiations with the council, awaiting the “right offer”.
He said: “I have invested in my businesses and they are still viable.
“The talks have gone on for three years and so far nothing has come of it.
“Now a developer has been appointed there might be some movement. I would like to remain in the area.
“It’s a good community. I’d prefer to be here rather than in King Street.”
Alice Wallace, 64, a volunteer at the St Clare’s Hospice charity shop, said: “This is a real community: we have loyal and friendly customers.
“We hope to move to a new location close by, but nothing has been decided yet. I don’t expect we’ll be here for that much longer.”