IT was launched two years ago today in front of dozens of high-profile invited guests.
But today, on the second anniversary of South Tyneside Council unveiling its £100m “365” vision to transform South Shields town centre, the Gazette asks the question: How much of the dream has become a reality?
At the launch, council bosses outlined their masterplan for a wholesale revamp of the town centre, including a new cinema, new library and digital media centre, improvements to Market Square, a new integrated transport Interchange on the site of the current bus and Metro terminal and a major food store at the rear of Fowler Street.
However, the only visual evidence of the changing landscape has been the demolition of Wouldhave House in the Market Place and the former Gazette office in Chapter Row.
Council leader Coun Iain Malcolm refused a Gazette request to discuss progress of the scheme.
Instead, it was left to another senior councillor to insist the scheme is on track – saying progress is being made to acquire properties needed to realise the plans, bringing in development partner Muse and getting a £12m low-cost Government loan.
The project’s title – ‘South Shields 365’ – reflects the aim of making the town a destination of choice every day of the year.
Coun John Anglin, the council’s lead member for regeneration and economy, said much has been achieved in two “intensive years
, but accepts that a “lot of hard work” still lies ahead.
He said: “We’re proud of the progress we have made so far on the 365 masterplan. It has been an intensive couple of years in which we have achieved a lot in a short space of time.
“Last year, the new Central Library and Digital Media Centre was given the go-ahead, and we and our development partner Muse will shortly be announcing the contractor appointed to carry out the construction.
“We’re very much looking forward to starting on site and seeing the physical build get under way. We’re also continuing to make progress acquiring the land and properties we need to realise our regeneration plans.”
He added: “The first phase is coming to fruition now and we are looking ahead at phase two, getting the necessary planning permissions to secure the whole development.
“Much of our focus will be around the proposed new transport interchange. There is a lot of hard work ahead but the momentum will continue throughout 2015.”
But the council has admitted that “some resistance” from owners is being experienced and it is likely that the local authority will need to commence seeking compulsory purchase powers this year in order to push the vision forward.
David Wells, development director with Muse Developments, said: “We are delighted with the rapid progress we have made in the regeneration of South Shields over the last two years.
“During this time, we have developed a real partnership with South Tyneside Council as we mark the second anniversary of the 365 project.
“During 2015 we are looking forward to getting on site and getting the physical build under way.
“By the time we celebrate our third anniversary, we hope to have made even more progress in the regeneration of South Shields.”