Controversial pontoon plan approved for South Shields riverside, despite fierce opposition from campaigners
Proposals for a pontoon structure to help unlock a new marina development in South Shields have been given the green light.
This included a floating pontoon and wave break, with access ladder, for the storage of small boats and to open up opportunities for watersports and community groups.
In supporting documents, applicants said the scheme aimed to create a “pontoon-based marina facility”.
However, the plans sparked opposition from neighbours over the proposed location and potential noise, environmental and parking impacts.
It also falls against the backdrop of an access dispute after part of the riverside walkway and England Coast Path, adjacent to the former dock, was gated-off.
An online petition to reopen the route to the public has exceeded 1,000 signatures, with South Shields MP, Emma Lewell-Buck, also backing the campaign.
As the pontoon plans included an extra security gate, campaigners from the Market Dock Residents’ Association called for the application to be put on hold until the existing access issues are resolved.
South Tyneside Council maintained the two issues were separate and “should not be confused”, confirmed the local authority is liaising with Natural England regarding the England Coast Path.
Arguments for and against the pontoon plan were made at a planning hearing on Monday, March 15, which was held via videolink and broadcast on YouTube.
During public consultation on the planning application, around 139 representations were submitted in support and 90 objections against.
Several written statements from objectors were read out at the planning meeting with concerns ranging from health and safety, pollution and parking to increased noise.
Objectors added that if the gated-off route was reopened in future, it could cause security issues for the pontoon development due to existing antisocial behaviour problems in the area.
Councillor Angela Hamilton, speaking as a ward representative for Beacon and Bents, told the committee that the plans would not meet the needs of disabled people.
The councillor also raised concerns about increased traffic and limited parking, the loss of a designated coastal path, the lack of facilities including toilets and noise disruption from the pontoon and boat repairs.
“I’m not against a pontoon or a marina, if it’s done right it can bring a massive advantage to our borough,” she said.
“But this application isn’t right, it doesn’t meet the local planning framework and takes away residents’ amenities that they’re entitled to.
“So please, do the right thing and refuse this planning application.”
A statement from the applicant said the scheme would enhance amenity and the provision of riverside leisure facilities and bring South Tyneside in line with other marina developments on the north side of the River Tyne.
The applicant added the former dock was ‘one of the last practical locations’ in South Tyneside suited for a such a facility and would provide a “safe haven” for sporting activities, such as kayaking and rowing clubs.
Councillors also heard the scheme had the backing of Port of Tyne chiefs.
A council planning officer, responding to objectors on the coastal path issue, said rights of access were not a matter for planning and were the responsibility of highways legislation.
He added the council’s environmental health team or the Port of Tyne would investigate any river offences and that applicants were exploring the provision of a ‘gangway’ structure to improve access in future.
In addition, a report prepared for councillors said the proposed security gate in the application could be installed without planning permission as a ‘permitted development’, provided it does not exceed two metres in height.
During discussion, there were mixed opinions on the scheme from members of the Planning Committee.
Councillor Jeff Milburn said noise from small boats would be “negligible” and that a marina development would allow South Tyneside to “catch up” with neighbouring local authorities.
“I don’t see anything wrong with this proposal, it can only be good for South Tyneside,” he said.
But councillor Paul Milburn shared a different view, raising concerns about the suitability of the location, loss of amenity for neighbours, the practicalities of the development and other issues.
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea, full stop,” he added.
The Planning Committee eventually approved, with 11 votes in favour and one vote against from Cllr Paul Milburn.