Proposals for 13 residential apartments, alongside car and cycle parking and landscaping in Long Row were submitted to South Tyneside Council earlier this year.
That conversion included gating off a stretch of riverside walkway, which now appears to be used as garden areas for the apartments.
The proposed site for the new apartment complex was formerly used as parking for the former call centre buildings and has more recently been used for storage.
Ahead of a decision on the plans by South Tyneside Council’s planning department, a petition has been launched by South Shields residents who say the development would mean the town would “lose its historic river footpath forever.”
The petition, which has gathered 1,447 signatures so far, said: “Should these flats be built, this would ensure the England Coastal Path on Market Dock is closed forever.
"Should South Tyneside Council – God forbid – grant planning permission then we could lose our historic river footpath forever.”
South Shields MP Emma Lewell Buck has also reacted with anger to the apartment plan and said she would be writing to the council’s planning department to raise her objections.
"I am really angry,” she said.
“It is not just about the residents, it’s about the fact that if we want to encourage people to our town and explore it and see how beautiful it is, cutting off a big section of the coastal path isn’t going to encourage that.”
In the past, South Tyneside Council said the earliest available record showed the land being owned by the ‘Tyne and Wear Development Corporation’ (TWDC) which was established in 1987 to develop land around the Rivers Tyne and Wear.
The corporation was dissolved in 1998 and assets were transferred to various agencies in a chain, eventually ending up in the ownership of Regional Development Agency One North East (ONE).
ONE were dissolved in 2012 and appear to have sold the land to ‘Key West’, understood to be the developer which converted the former call centre building to residential.
The strip of land which passes in front of the building, now gated off and used as garden areas, is marked as a ‘recreational route’ and tagged ‘the England Coastal Path’ – on Ordnance Survey maps.
Ms Lewell-Buck voiced frustrations as to why this was not being addressed by the council.
South Tyneside Council has been contacted for comment.
Applicant Key West Three Ltd. said in its planning proposal for the new apartments that “on-going demand has prompted this application”.
A design and access statement from Mario Minchella Architects adds the new apartment complex would be designed to make reference to “naval architecture” and the “marine setting.”
Those wanting to comment on the plans have until Tuesday, July 27 to submit them to the council.
Visit: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/article/35961/Search-planning-applications and search reference: ST/0693/20/FUL.