Seafront notices are sign of times

COUNCIL chiefs have defended a decision to put up 41 signs along the seafront costing more than £800 to clarify that it owns the land.

The signs were placed at various locations along the Lawe Top, North and South Marine parks and the Dragon, at a cost of 847.

They state an Act of Parliament from 1965, saying that South Tyneside Council owns the land, and merely leases it for the use of the public.

The signs were put up after local businessman Ahmed Khan held a public meeting where he suggested making an application for village green status for the Lawe Top.

It followed a recommendation by council consultants Pan Leisure that a new Arbeia visitor centre could be built into the slope of North Marine Park, opposite Fort Street.

Village green status would prevent any development on the land.

However, Mr Khan insists that the Commons Land Act 1965, which the council has used, was made redundant by an updated act, which came into effect in July, a month before the signs were erected.

When Mr Khan asked the question publicly at a full council meeting, the leader of the council Paul Waggott promised to carry out an investigation into the updated act, and report back to him.

Mr Khan says he is still waiting for a response.

A council spokesman said he doesn't believe the 1965 legislation has been repealed, and says the signs weren't intended to change the way the public uses the land.

The spokesman said: "The notices were erected to state the council's view as landowner about the technical legal status of the land. It is not intended to affect in any way public use of the land.

"The council has now received an application to register the land as a town or village green.

"The council will not be influenced by the fact it owns the land. It will be considered properly in accordance with the law."

The council, as registration authority, will make a decision as to whether this land should be registered as a town or village green on a legal basis.

The council as landowner will have to decide whether or not to object to the application, if the application proceeds to that stage.

And the council as registration authority will then have to consider any objections that the local authority as landowner makes.

To ensure the issues are kept separate, different lawyers in the team deal with the separate issues.