South Shields: A town centre being overtaken by ‘to let’ signs

The old Officers Club premises would set a prospective tenant back �50,000 a year in rent.
The old Officers Club premises would set a prospective tenant back �50,000 a year in rent.
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The colourful placards waving in the wind could be mistaken, at first glance, for bunting.

But these flags – which adorn scores of shop fronts in South Shields town centre – are in fact ‘to-let’ signs.

The rent for the former That's Entertainment store in King Street is �49,500 per year.

The rent for the former That's Entertainment store in King Street is �49,500 per year.

Starting in Fowler Street, and weaving their way down to King Street, it’s hard to find more than a few stores in a row without one of these signs.

The once-booming street was a shoppers’ haven filled with high street names and household favourites.

Landlords urged to cut rents to save South Shields’ dying town centre

While the likes of Woolworths, Marks & Spencer and Mothercare are now a distant memory, their buildings, which are privately owned, are up for rent.

If we adopt ideas such as free parking, perhaps starting with it being free after 3pm, this could be a way to increase footfall.

Emma Lewell-Buck, South Shields MP

However, many people may be surprised at just how much it costs to rent one of these prime location properties – and that’s before business rates, staff wages, insurance and utility bills are added to the mix.

The old Officers Club, which closed in January, costs £50,000 per year to rent, while That’s Entertainment, which shut in April, is £49,500.

Smaller premises, such as the old Stead and Simpson shoe shop, which ceased trading in summer 2014, are £25,000 a year.

And on Fowler Street, the old Cash 4 Clothes site, seems a bargain at just £8,500, and the former Ladbrokes betting shop is £13,000.

Prospective tenants are spoilt for choice in South Shields town centre.

Prospective tenants are spoilt for choice in South Shields town centre.

But as the months go by, the shop fronts are becoming as weary as the disgruntled people of Shields, who want some decent shops to spend their money.

Last month the town’s MP Emma Lewell-Buck spoke out after BHS and Thornton’s in Kings Street announced they were the latest high street casualties.

The Labour MP called on the Government to give South Tyneside Council the cash to finance compulsory purchase orders and says free parking should be a priority to kick-start trade in the meantime.

She is also pressing the Government to lower business rates.

Sign of the times - another 'to let' property, this time in the Denmark Centre.

Sign of the times - another 'to let' property, this time in the Denmark Centre.

Mrs Lewell-Buck said: “The town centre is something we cherish.

“If we adopt ideas such as free parking, perhaps starting with it being free after 3pm, this could be a way to increase footfall.”

Mrs Lewell-Buck has called for the Government to provide councils with financial support to help them press ahead with regeneration plans.

Yet another empty shop unit, this one in Fowler Street, South Shields.

Yet another empty shop unit, this one in Fowler Street, South Shields.