Cinema and bars masterplan to revive town

LEISURE USE ... a cinema and bars could be sited on the Barrington Street/Chapter Row site.
LEISURE USE ... a cinema and bars could be sited on the Barrington Street/Chapter Row site.

A NEW cinema and family-orientated bars could be premiered in South Shields as part of a ‘masterplan’ for the borough, it has been revealed.

Town planners have earmarked leisure use as the key ingredient in redevelopment of the Chapter Row and Barrington Street area.

And decades after the closure of the old ABC and Gaumont cinemas, town movie-lovers could soon look forward to a new ‘picture house’ to add to cinemas at the Customs House, South Shields, and the Cineworld complex in Boldon Colliery.

But that’s dependent on finding a suitable developer to revitalise the area – which Town Hall chiefs admit is a big challenge in such tough economic times.

Council regeneration boss Rick O’Farrell said of the plan: “We want to see a significant increase in both retail facilities and leisure use in that area, and we are looking at a cinema and new restaurant bars.

“But it’s not the ‘vertical drinking’ kind of bar we are looking towards, it’s more family-orientated bars and restaurants.”

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s Place Committee, Mr O’Farrell also accepted that King Street was under-performing in comparison with rival shopping areas, such as the out-of-town Silverlink complex in North Tyneside, which is easily reached through the Tyne Tunnel.

He said: “There’s more of a cash spend at Silverlink, and that’s something we need to strengthen as part of our masterplan for the town.”

That blueprint could also see the future of the town’s Gypsies Green Stadium resolved.

And Mr O’Farrell, the council’s head of enterprise and regeneration, revealed that a post-Olympics bid to revert the site into a cycle track had been received.

He said: “In the past it has been subject to much speculation, with plans for a hotel and hotel chalets.

“It’s been considered as an adventure sports area for motor biking and water sports.

“We have also been approached since the Olympics about using it again as a cycle track, but it’s the wrong size to be a modern cycle track.

“Another option is just to open it up as part of The Leas.”

Despite the economic downturn, there is still a significant amount of new building work ongoing throughout the borough.

Imminent changes to the South Shields landscape include a new £16m swimming pool and leisure complex in Pier Parade, by the seafront, the creation of 220 new homes in Laygate and a spectacular riverside park at the town’s Harton Staithes.

Hebburn town centre is also finally at the centre of major rejuvenation work.

Mr O’Farrell said demolition of the Wouldhave House office building in South Shields’ Market Place was central to the planning.

He revealed that the ‘blot on the landscape’, which incorporates the former Commando and Brigantine pubs, will be flattened by March next year.

Ocean Road, where redevelopment work has just been launched, was described as South Shields’s “jewel in the crown”.

A vital link between the town centre and the foreshore, the long-term hope is for the creation of a “café society” along the length of the street.

Meanwhile, work to create 220 family homes at Trinity South in Laygate, including 20 new council homes, is expected to start in June.