Call to force sale of empty shops in South Shields town centre using compulsory purchase powers

Calls have been made for council chiefs to use compulsory purchase powers to regenerate a major shopping street in South Shields – but regeneration bosses say this would be a “last resort.”

By Chris Binding
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 2:54 pm

A key part of the regeneration plans also included proposals to move the South Tyneside College campus and student accommodation into South Shields town centre, which is subject to government funding.

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A number of shop units and buildings are sitting empty in South Shields town centre.

South Tyneside Council has been progressing demolition works on sites it owns to make way for future development, alongside ongoing work to encourage the private sector to “buy-in” to its vision for the town.

This includes encouraging investors and housing providers to create more accommodation in South Shields, including more apartments above existing premises.

At a meeting of the Place Select Committee on January 25, councillors heard there were challenges in King Street due to the mixed property ownership – which ranges from local owners to pension funds based in London.

Councillor Angela Hamilton, who represents the coastal ward of Beacon and Bents, said the council should use compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) on parts of King Street to help in regeneration efforts.

There are a large number of buildings empty, for sale, and to let in South Shields town centre.

Cllr Hamilton told the meeting: “A lot of the businesses in King Street are being operated on a repair and maintenance contract and they’re not paying any rent whatsoever.

“They pay business rates and they’re maintaining the buildings to the people who are renting them out.

“I actually think it’s time we compulsory purchased the vast majority of those businesses in King Street because it can be done for regeneration and I think that’s what we need to be looking at now.”

But Paul Archibald, the council’s senior regeneration manager, said that CPOs were a lengthy process and would only be used as a “last resort.”

He told the meeting: “It’s a very long-drawn out process and I think it’s something that we would need to consider before starting to go down that route.

“I think it’s too early to be having those discussions […] it’s a significant decision.”

The comments were made following an update on the council’s regeneration plans for South Shields.

This includes a mix of smaller-scale schemes such as public art and enhanced public realm and major transformational projects including the proposed South Tyneside College move and new housing at Holborn Riverside.

As part of regeneration efforts, the council aims to make connections between potential business owners and property/ building owners in areas like King Street to provide more flexible leases.

During this week’s Place Select Committee meeting, councillor Doreen Purvis said that some of the upper floors in King Street were in a “deplorable condition” and that the “only residents are pigeons.”

Councillor Geraldine Kilgour, who chairs the scrutiny panel, added that property owners needed to “step up” to help regenerate the town.

Cllr Kilgour went on to say: “[A lot of] the properties aren’t owned by South Tyneside Council and I think historically there has been a real pressure placed on us to carry out work and develop where we simply can’t.

“I think we have done a lot to persuade and coax and it’s about those owners stepping up and maintaining and developing their properties – not only for the benefit of our community but their own.”

Council officer Mr Archibald suggested that the situation on King Street was not sustainable and that a “tipping point” would come where property owners would not be able to continue paying business rates on empty properties.

He added: “When that happens we will have to be able to capitalise on that and play a facilitating role.”

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