South Tyneside gives go-ahead to Blue Plaque scheme

South Tyneside memorial plaque.
Catherine Cookson, Mill Dam

South Tyneside memorial plaque. Catherine Cookson, Mill Dam

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A blue plaque scheme - celebrating the great and good of South Tyneside - has been approved by councillors.

South Tyneside Council agreed to start a formal scheme after the borough was ranked in the bottom ten in the country for its heritage by the Royal Society of Arts.

The borough currently has 21 plaques which have been installed by various different organisations over the years.

These include The Old Town Hall in South Shields Market Place, one to Catherine Cookson in Mill Dam, South Shields and a memorial plaque to the Gallipoli campaign at Little Haven.

The council wants to install between one and three plaques a year marking the area’s significant people and places.

They want to start the scheme in 2017 with three plaques although the recipients are yet to be chosen.

For a person to be deserving of a plaque they must have made a “significant contribution to the cultural, industrial or civic legacy of South Tyneside or Britain”, councillor Alan Kerr, cabinet member for economic regeneration, told a meeting of the full council.

They must also have a strong link with South Tyneside, for example they were born, lived, worked or made their discovery or accomplishment in the area, and there must be an existing original site or building connected to them.

Coun Kerr said: “It would not be possible for example, to have a plaque saying ‘this is the site of the house where Catherine Cookson lived’ if the house no longer stands.”

For a place to qualify it must be “prominent in the history and development of South Tyneside” and have historical and aesthetic value.

Coun Kerr said: “Groups such as local history groups as well as members of the public will be encouraged to nominate people and buildings for consideration for a commemorative plaque.

“A long list of nominations will be created and an initial assessment will be made by a panel consisting of officers from regulatory services, cultural services and regeneration to ensure that nominations meet the criteria.

“A list of potential candidates will be put to cabinet for decision to determine which plaques will be supported in the year ahead.”

Last year, the Royal Society of Arts listed South Tyneside as one of the worst 10 local authorities on its heritage index, a scoring system ranking areas’ historical commemorations.

Coun Kerr said the ranking caused much consternation in the area and the implementation of a blue plaque scheme is one way of improving South Tyneside’s heritage rating.

He said the area’s heritage events have also not been recognised by the RSA.