Skatepark approved, despite objections

VACANT ... Visage House in Shaftesbury Avenue.
VACANT ... Visage House in Shaftesbury Avenue.

A NEW skatepark has been given the go-ahead in South Tyneside – despite the bid putting some borough businesses in a tailspin.

The council’s planning committee yesterday approved an application to convert the former Visage House in Shaftesbury Avenue, South Shields, into a family entertainment centre, including a soft play area and indoor skatepark.

Approval came despite objections from Cycle Route Ltd, which operates the Override Skatepark just 800 yards away, and Pirates Cove in Rolling Mill Road, Jarrow.

They contested the need for another skatepark in the area, claiming it did “not make economic sense”.

Concerns were also expressed by other businesses on Shaftesbury Avenue, including Be Modern and Barbour and Sons Ltd, over an increase in traffic and pressure on car parking spaces, but committee members were told that the Visage site has been unoccupied since August 2011.

Despite the loss of an industrial building, committee members thought it was better the unit was occupied, and granted the application on a three-year trial basis.

The only dissenting voice came from Coun Bill Brady, who represents Whiteleas ward for Labour.

He said: “I’m really worried about this. The traffic for Shaftesbury Avenue from Newcastle Road on the left hand side to Tesco, McDonalds and the car wash is such that sometimes you can’t get out of there.

“I‘m all for creating jobs and utilising empty properties, but I’m really worried about an increase in traffic there.”

Coun Gladys Hobson, Labour member for West Park, said: “I’ve been to a skatepark in Kent with my grandchildren, and the majority of the time they are busiest at weekends and in the evenings. It’s somewhere you can sit and have a coffee while the children play.

“I don’t think there would be that much traffic during the day.”

Coun Allan West, who represents Westoe for Labour, said the traffic issued had been “over-egged”.

He added: “There is a limit on the number of children who can play in the skatepark at any one time. I don’t believe it will generate that much traffic.”

Labour’s Coun Alan Kerr, for Monkton, agreed, adding: “If this was operating as a factory there would be 200 or 300 employees and that would generate more traffic.”

George Simpson, a director with Cycle Route Ltd, said: “I understand that South Tyneside Council wants to promote business and employment, but having two skateparks on one industrial estate doesn’t make a lot of sense.

“There could be a knock-on effect in terms of the possibility of having to lay off staff.”

A report to the committee said: “The proposal would bring into use a large vacant building, and the recommendation to grant a temporary three-year permission would enable the situation to be reassessed, particularly in terms of the need for the building as an industrial premises.”