TOWNSFOLK and tourists have put up a staunch defence of South Shields as a seaside resort – after it was labelled one of the country’s most deprived destinations.
The sun may have been shining this summer, but scratch the surface and the picture is not so rosy.
That’s the view of a survey which places South Shields eighth-poorest among English seaside towns.
For generations, people from all over the country have flocked to its beaches and foreshore parks.
But the Office for National Statistics has used health and employment statistics from 2010 to paint a grim picture of the town as an unemployment blackspot with life expectancy below the national average.
South Tyneside Council, Coun Iain Malcolm, has ridiculed the findings, calling the report “out of date”.
He pointed out the developments at Littlehaven, Sandhaven and Ocean Road that have continued to see visitors flock to South Tyneside’s seaside this summer.
Retired merchant navy seaman and Whitburn Colliery miner Harry Bulman, 80, of River Drive, South Shields, described the survey as “stuff and nonsense”.
Mr Bulman said: “I’m not saying it’s a perfect place but, as far as seaside towns go, it has a lot going for it.
“There’s plenty to do, with the beach, the Marine Parks and the fair. All we don’t have is the sun – although this year we’ve been blessed.”
Natasha Pascoe, 21, of Simonside, South Shields, often takes her young sister, McKenzie, six, along to the seafront.
She said: “I take her to the fair and go along when they have firework displays. There’s plenty to do.
“The only problem is the beach. It needs to be cleaned more often.”
Full-time mum Kirsten Duke, 24, of Horsley Hill, South Shields, had a different view.
She said: “It’s nice for the tourists, but not so much for local people.
“I feel that way because I was dragged along to the beach every summer.
“I suppose you don’t appreciate it so much when it’s on your doorstep.
“I’m surprised that Blackpool came up worst in the survey. I love it.
“The atmosphere there is great. It’s much livelier than Shields.”
Jobseeker Stacey Goodsir, 26, also from Horsley Hill, disagreed.
She said: “I love the Marine Park – I go there and feed the ducks.
“The park is great for the kids and the pubs on the seafront are great too, especially the Crabshack.”
Press operator Connor McGarvey, 21, of Lawe Road, South Shields, added: “Shields is better, or as good as, most places.
“The seafront isn’t as good this summer because of all the construction work at the moment.
“These surveys can make a case for most things, but I’m surprised it rated so badly. It’s got a lot going for it.”
For an outsider’s perspective, we spoke to Cush Stevens, 76, a retired miner from Consett, County Durham, who comes to the seafront every summer.
He said: “The Marine Park is lovely – you should be proud of that.
“I have been disappointed this year at all the scaffolding on the seafront, but I suppose it will look nice when it’s finished.”