South Tyneside wins seaside accolade

DUNES BEAUTY ... Sandhaven beach.
DUNES BEAUTY ... Sandhaven beach.

IT’S official – South Shields is a great place to live!

Already recognised by Visit England as one of the country’s best seaside resorts, the town is back in the national spotlight after being named one of the ‘30 Best Places by the Sea’ in The Times newspaper.

The supplement, one of a series of features on the best places to live in Britain, singled out South Shields for its “fantastic beaches, excellent school facilities and value for money”.

It was one of just two North East seaside beauty spots to be included, with Bamburgh in Northumberland also making an appearance, alongside the likes of Brighton, Southwold, Whitby and, at No1, Filey in North Yorkshire.

Coming in at 28th position in the poll, the guide says: “South Shields has good beaches, good schools and the Metro to Newcastle and Sunderland.”

Estate agent Savills predicts the town will witness a big rise in house prices over the next five years, the report adding: “Young professionals and families live there. You can buy a four-bedroom terraced house for £250,000 in popular Westoe Village, a detached home in Harton for £400,000 and a flat for less than £70,000.”

The praise was welcomed by Coun Iain Malcolm, the leader of South Tyneside Council, who pledged to make his home town the North East’s premier coastal resort.

Coun Malcolm said: “From its spectacular coastline to beautiful parks and a year-round programme of festivals, music and events, South Shields has so much to offer and it’s good to see the town getting national recognition as a great place to be.

“Our borough attracts more than five million visits every year and we receive fantastic feedback from visitors who often praise the cleanliness and investment in the seafront in particular.

“Tourism supports over 3,000 jobs in South Tyneside and we are making major investments to attract even more visitors, including a new promenade and improved beach area at Littlehaven and a stunning waterfront park at Harton.

“South Shields has the potential to be the North East’s premier coastal resort, with a stunning coastline all the way to Souter Lighthouse and the village of Whitburn.”

The town’s regeneration will continue later this year when Haven Point, a new £16m seafront pool and leisure complex, opens its doors.

But amid the praise, brickbats always seem to follow. The latest annual Good Beach Guide reveals that Marsden has dropped a water quality grade in the latest poll – although Sandhaven has retained its “recommended” status.

A number of beaches in the North East have failed tests on water quality after one of the wettest years on record.

Materials running off from roads, urban areas, agriculture and livestock fields flowed steadily into the sea, causing many beaches to do badly in water tests.

In 2011 there were no beaches in the North East which failed, but the annual Good Beach Guide, published this week by the Marine Conservation Society, shows five failures in the region.

“The last two decades have seen huge investment in improving bathing water quality,” said Northumbrian Water spokesman Alistair Baker.

He added: “But however much work is undertaken, there are still natural factors which will impact on water quality and we had one of the wettest summers for a very long time which increases the amount of waste water going into rivers and watercourses and then the sea.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul