A COUNCIL leader has hit back at claims that a planned £12m town centre regeneration scheme could end up being a white elephant.
South Tyneside Council is pressing ahead with its ambitious plans for the Hebburn Community Hub.
The new building will include a 450sq m library, a six-lane swimming pool, with space for 150 spectators, plus a learner pool and a 700sq m sports hall.
The hub will also include a customer service centre for the council, South Tyneside Homes and other partners, plus community meeting rooms and health facilities.
The council’s decision-making cabinet will be asked to hand out the contract for the hub at its meeting on Wednesday, July 10.
However, there is still considerable frustration in Hebburn about the need for more big-name shops in its town centre following the collapse of talks between the council and retail giants Tesco and Asda.
Community stalwart Cicely Horspool said: “Personally, I feel the hub could be a white elephant.
“People are so disheartened about the state of the shopping centre and how this has dragged on for years.
“Some feel it’s a pity they are going to close Hebburn Community Centre and Hebburn Swimming Pool to create the hub.
“Why can’t the council bring these buildings up to scratch and concentrate on getting a big supermarket in Hebburn town centre, like Morrisons in Jarrow, to boost the place?
“We need better shopping facilities in Hebburn, more than the hub, because there’s so little choice in the town centre.”
Mrs Horspool, a former community representative on the council’s Hebburn community area forum, added: “The hub may be fabulous, but how long will it take before it’s finished and who is it for?”
But forum chairman Coun Richard Porthouse said people will see big changes in the town centre once work starts on the hub later this year.
He said: “I have heard from people in the town that the hub is not going to happen, but it is going to happen.
“I understand there is a lot of frustration about the shopping centre, but the Hebburn hub will be a high-quality scheme, which will greatly benefit the town, and work is due to start in August.
“There are a lot of doubters in Hebburn, but the scheme will happen.”