A KEY decision is expected tomorrow which should enable the South Shields 365 masterplan to finally start becoming a physical reality.
An urgent behind-closed-doors meeting of senior South Tyneside councillors is to be staged at the Quadrus Centre on Boldon Business Park.
Members of the council’s cabinet will be asked to give consent for its development partner, Muse, to appoint a building contractor for the first phase of the hugely-ambitious £100m project.
That will enable work to start on a new central library and digital hub – which the council revealed last week will be to known as The Word – on the former Wouldhave House site at South Shields’ Market Place.
If permission is granted tomorrow, the council has confirmed that work on the site will start “before the summer” – although no specific date has yet been set.
It is believed the identity of the successful contractor should be made public before the end of March.
The new, three-storey central library and media hub forms the first part of the 365 project, which aims to transform the town centre over the coming decade.
A cabinet report cites “commercial reasons” for tomorrow’s meeting being held without members of the public or press in attendance.
It states: “This is a private item of business which is also a decision of special urgency.
“The chair of the council’s Place Select Committee has agreed that this item is urgent and cannot reasonably be deferred to the next cabinet meeting.
“The press and public will be excluded from the meeting because the meeting will be considering a report that contains exempt information.
“The report contains information about the business and financial affairs of the council and their development partner.
“The commercial sensitivity of the information is such that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.” The new, three-storey central library and media hub forms the first part of the 365 project, which aims to transform the town centre over the coming decade.
It will incorporate an IT suite, exhibition space, a café and a rooftop restaurant and terrace.
There will be a “pier” walkway and viewing gallery on the first floor that will allow people to look out across the Tyne.
A new 40-space car park will also be constructed on vacant land on Harton Quays.
Later phases of the development are to include a new cinema and restaurants in Chapter Row, on the site of the old Shields Gazette building, a new retail quarter at the back of Fowler Street and a revamped bus and Metro interchange.
The council is buying up sites and acquiring land to ensure that the masterplan, which was first unveiled in January 2013, can become a reality.
However, there is an acceptance among senior officers that the authority may have to utilise compulsory purchase powers on some properties, if negotiations can not resolve all matters.