Cautious welcome over call for traders to work together

GILL BEARD ... raised her concerns at the lack of footfall in the town centre.
GILL BEARD ... raised her concerns at the lack of footfall in the town centre.

RETAILERS have given a qualified welcome to calls by a South Tyneside regeneration boss to work together.

A plea by Coun John Anglin to look at the positives of the ‘South Shields 365’ masterplan resonate to some degree with Gill Beard.

Mrs Beard, who runs Apollo Bathrooms in Fowler Street, was one of those traders who raised her concerns at the lack of footfall in the town centre to the Gazette last week.

She revealed she was giving up the lease on one of her two units within the street in the next fortnight – because she cannot afford to pay two lots of rents and rates any more.

“The town is dead and we just don’t get the footfall or the passing trade that we once did,” was her assessment.

But she accepts that “some positives” emerged from a recent gathering, above the town’s Wilkinson’s store, between council officials and traders.

She said: “Free parking was raised at the meeting and it is positive in one respect that signs directing people to the free parking that is available have now been put up. That is good.

“The lady who does our accounts, who teaches business at Sunderland University, is also preparing for a meeting with a council official this Friday. That’s welcome also and we’ll see what emerges from that.

“But on the issue of parking I really don’t see the free spaces at the Customs House being town centre parking.

“I can’t see many people trailing up from there to go to Morrisons to do their shopping.

“I was here at the shop on Saturday and there wasn’t a soul on Fowler Street – and it wasn’t even a derby day or an airshow day. It was just an ordinary Saturday. That’s why we are worried.”

John Reay, a partner at Mega PCs in Fowler Street, is suspending his judgement over the ‘365’ vision.

He said: “It doesn’t seem to be very consistent. They constantly change what the plan is. I’ll reserve my judgement until we actually see something happening,

“As for parking, why did the council build a new pay and display car park behind the shop here when there was already an existing car park that was never full?”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for South Tyneside Council has confirmed that the town’s Jobcentre in Chapter Row is to be demolished as part of the 365 masterplan.

He said: “As part of the comprehensive regeneration of the town centre numerous properties including the current Jobcentre will be acquired and demolished to facilitate new development.

“Discussions are under way with the Department of Work and Pensions which operates the JobCentre to identify an alternative location in the town centre.

“Demolition of the former Shields Gazette building in Chapter Row is scheduled to begin in October.”