Opinion split on design of the times

TALKING POINT ... the BT offices in South Shields.
TALKING POINT ... the BT offices in South Shields.

SOUTH Tyneside should build on its past to guarantee its architecture remains a source of pride in future, according to borough shoppers.

This week, South Tyneside Council considered the good, the bad and ugly when it comes to our buildings, structures and street scenes.

Members of the council’s place select committee had their say on what they considered the best and worst designs in the borough.

And it was agreed that an attractive building can raise both aspirations and our sense of pride in the environment.

To many, South Shields Town Hall, in Westoe Road, remains a shining example of good architecture, more than 100 years after it was built.

By way of contrast, the blandness of the town’s JobCentre is at the opposite end of the aesthetic scale.

Retired South Tyneside railway signalman John Cuddihy’s favourite borough building is no longer standing. It was demolished when a German bomb hit Market Place in South Shields back in 1941.

Mr Cuddihy, 82, said: “Croftons the draper’s was a magnificent building which I remember seeing as a child.

“It had a wonderful turret on top, and it was so eye-catching. The flat-topped buildings from the 1960s in Market Place just don’t compare.

“It’s not that I’m against modern buildings. The BT building at Harton Staithes is not too bad, and the surrounding park is a definite improvement on what was there before.”

His brother Richard Cuddihy, 78, of Biddick Hall, South Shields, a former maintenance electrician at the town’s Smiths Docks, added: “We should give credit to the council for the improvements they have carried out on the foreshore, particularly the swimming pool. It’s very impressive.

“One of my favourite buildings is the NatWest bank in King Street.”

South Shields IT technician Dan Ormston, 22, said: “There’s quite big 1960s to 1980s vibe in South Shields, quite a lot of standard blocks. Those were not like Victorian times, when people had a lot of pride in their work.

“The town hall is the town’s nicest building, and there are some good townhouses at The Nook and Cleadon.

“I like the BT building. You can see that it has been designed using heart and mind.”

Full-time carer John Patterson, 63, of Low Simonside, Jarrow, said: “I have a preference for older buildings. I take a look up at some of the old buildings in King Street and wonder how long they have been standing.

“I grew up in the 1950s, when it was pretty dark and dismal, so I appreciate the new, brighter-coloured buildings too.”

South Shields charity worker Les McIntyre, 59, said: “The NatWest and Barclays banks in the town centre are lovely, and you can’t beat the town hall.

“I think the BT building is a bit of a white elephant.

“I hate all the bookies in the town centre. They are too gaudy.”

Retired shop assistant Barbara Daines, 60, of Simonside, South Shields, added: “The BT building is a waste of space. It’s ugly. Give me the town hall any day.”