South Shields 365 revamp divides public opinion

vision of future ... how the proposed new South Shields Central Library would look.
vision of future ... how the proposed new South Shields Central Library would look.

SOUTH Shields 365 is dividing opinion among residents of the town it is about to transform.

Some are willing to give the ambitious 10-year project to regenerate the town centre the benefit of the doubt.

But others feel it is too grand and unachievable.

This week marked the second anniversary of the venture being unveiled, amid much fanfare, at the town’s One Trinity Green.

The aims set out included knocking down the 1960s-built Wouldhave House in Market Place and replacing it with a library and digital media hub.

Market Place was also to be redesigned, and the Shields Gazette office in Chapter Row was to be demolished, with a cinema and restaurants earmarked for the site.

Further down the line would come a new integrated transport hub and major retail outlet, it was revealed.

Two years on, and Wouldhave House has been obliterated from the landscape, and the old Gazette building is flattened.

We headed out onto the streets of the town centre to see if shoppers believed the 10-year vision can become a reality.

Retired waste disposal operator Robert Hall, 78, of Laygate, has examined the plans currently on display at an empty shop unit in King Street, and he was impressed.

He said: “I like what I see from the plans. I think the council should be applauded for being so ambitious.

“I see the market will be covered in part, and that is an excellent idea. That will protect visitors and traders.

“I am 79 this year, and I would like to see it all done and dusted in my lifetime. I think the end product will be impressive. I just hope they can see it through.”

Former borough councillor Arthur Meeks, 78, was present at the launch of South Shields 365 two years ago.

He said: “I believe it will happen. It will take time, and they need to get the money together, but it will happen. I believe in the old adage in not commenting until the job is done.

“Yes, there will be disruption along the way – that is inevitable – but you can’t make an omelette and not crack eggs. The town needs this to succeed.”

Retired welder Harry Maloy, 85, is a proud Jarrovian, and he admits he “doesn’t really care” if the masterplan comes to fruition.

He said: “It’s always about Shields. Jarrow never gets anything. I go to the library in Jarrow. I’m not concerned about Shields having a new one. What’s wrong with the one they’ve got anyway?”

Ex-joiner Harry Jordon, 82, of Simonside, South Shields, said: “I’d give this project nine out of 10.

“There is a lot to admire, but I don’t think I’ll be here to see it finished. I am surprised about needing a new library. The existing one seems fine, but it will be good to have a new cinema. That should attract people into town.”

Less convinced are two traders in the town’s Denmark Centre – Michael Jamal, boss of Michael’s Cafe, and Stephen Tallach, proprietor of Champion Fruits.

Mr Jamal said: “Look at my cafe today. There is hardly anybody in it. That’s why I am selling up.

“This part of the town is dead. This project will do nothing for us.”

That was a view echoed by Mr Tallach, who added: “We are isolated here, and this project will make it worse.

“The units have the same rateable values they had in 2007.

“My rates are £800 a month. That’s four times what my brother pays in Gateshead.”

Twitter@shieldsgazpaul