THE new Mayor of South Tyneside is backing a bid to put the borough on the world tourist map.
Coun John Anglin believes a successful World Heritage Site bid by Wearmouth and Jarrow would give North East England a significant cultural and economic boost.
One of Coun Anglin's top priorities after being made Mayor last week was to sign the document being submitted as part of the joint monastic site's campaign.
He said: "I think this is a tremendous opportunity for Jarrow and South Tyneside, which would become as significant, in cultural and tourist terms, as places like the Taj Mahal.
"At the time of the Venerable Bede, Wearmouth-Jarrow was a centre for learning for not only England but Europe and, indeed, the world.
"If it wins World Heritage Site status, I'm convinced that economic expansion will follow."
The twin Anglo-Saxon monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow – comprising St Paul's Church in Jarrow and St Peter's Church at Wearmouth, Sunderland – is the UK's nomination for World Heritage Site status in 2010.
The Venerable Bede was the central intellectual figure of the dual monastic community from the late 7th century until his death in 735, and his influence spread throughout the medieval world.
Coun Anglin added: "The truth is that in the Middle Ages, Bede was the leading cultural instrument in what we now know as Britain, and the world.
"It would be absolutely fantastic if this bid is successful, and I would urge as many people as possible to sign up and support the bid."
Gazette readers can express their support for the bid at a public consultation event at St Paul's Church, Jarrow, between 10am and 4pm on Saturday.
The bid documents can also be viewed and downloaded online by clicking on this link.
The public consultation is open until Tuesday, July 7, and the final decision on whether Wearmouth-Jarrow gets the status it is seeking will be made in July 2011 by the world heritage committee of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).