A £100m ‘masterplan’ to revitalise and rebuild South Shields town centre came under a barrage of public criticism – on the second anniversary of its launch.
‘South Shields 365’ was unveiled in January 2013 with the aim of making the town an attractive place to visit every day of the year.
A library and digital media hub, a cinema, integrated transport interchange and major retail complex are among the planned developments.
But 24 months since the scheme was unveiled, only two physical signs of the vision are visible – the demolition and clearance of Wouldhave House in the Market Place, which has been flattened to make way for the library complex, and the ongoing clearance of the former Gazette building in Chapter Row, for which a cinema is earmarked.
And after an update on the masterplan in the Gazette yesterday, critics took to our website to say just how underwhelmed they were at the progress.
A typical view came from website contributor ‘Bar Steward’, who claimed the ‘masterplan’ was “obsolete even before the ink dried on the plans”, adding: “New build doesn’t impress anyone – just look at Blackpool’s disastrous attempts to rebuild itself and its long gone halcyon days of the 50s/60s.
“Libraries are obsolete – especially ticky-tacky expensive new ones that ruin the few historic assets of the town.
“South Tyneside Labour Council won’t even take the hints from English Heritage that the council is about to spoil the ambience and aesthetic attractiveness of the Market Place.”
Equally scathing was ‘Walkerchris’, who wrote: “They plead poverty and blame coalition cuts for them having to take tough decisions but then talk about building futuristic retail/transport and digital media ‘hubs’ in a dead town centre. Everybody can see that it’s nonsense.”
‘Isthattheguy’ added: “There’s nowt wrong with the existing library and existing bus and Metro stations ... so what are the next ‘good reasons’ for the 365 plan?”
Council leader, Coun Iain Malcolm also came under fire for declining to comment to the Gazette, with ‘George Connett’ saying: “Surprised he hasn’t at least blamed those wicked Tories for this latest bungle.
“365 was, and is, a total waste of council taxpayers’ money.”
Meanwhile, the reaction was hardly more positive on local authority plans for the reintroduction of trams in the borough.
The council wants to see trams running from South Shields town centre to Harton and Cleadon Village, which could then feed into an extended Metro network.
‘Swinger 1’ wrote: “Wow, this will make such a big difference to the areas of Harton and Cleadon as they are so neglected in transport links, only having a bus every 15 minutes is such an inconvenience.”
‘Tremic’ added: “Think this council has lost the plot – we have so few visitors to start with to the town. Why do we need a tram to chase them away while all the works are taking place?”