EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: Time is running out to save our town centre, act now!
There is not a week that goes by where the plight of King Street and our town centre isn’t raised with me.
Many of you I have spoken to and the businesses I have engaged with know, I not only share your frustrations but that I am heartbroken at this decline and have repeatedly raised my concerns in private and publicly.
Many of you will be unaware that, as your MP, I do not have any decision-making powers over what happens on King Street
These powers are in the control of the councillors who make up the cabinet.
For years now, I have expressed my concerns surrounding the 365 Project.
Despite being almost a decade in and millions of pounds spent, it has failed to deliver on its bold promises.
The way to attract visitors is to create a reason to visit, something new, different, and unique.
I do understand that some people like the new library, swimming pool and Metro station but I’ve not yet been convinced that they attract people from all over the North East, or even locally, to spend their hard-earned cash in our town.
The reasons for decline in our High Streets are manyfold, the rise in internet shopping, out of town retail parks, over a decade of Tory austerity, Government refusal to reform business rates or to make the changes needed to the planning system so that it is easier for councils to repurpose empty shops and of course in the last year, Coronavirus.
But, with the right passion and mind set, our town centre could be rejuvenated as a place to socialise, a place for events focused on our culture, heritage, and local talents not only a place to shop.
Over many years I have pushed for free parking, extended pavement licences, held multiple meetings with planners, developers, businesses, community groups and constituents.
So I know there are so many opportunities here in South Shields, there are so many people with the right ideas, but time is running out to save our town centre.
Those in the cabinet responsible for making these decisions need to act now.