South Shields shopkeeper’s shock as he learns that his building WILL be demolished

Marsden General Dealers owner Zafar Iqbal
Marsden General Dealers owner Zafar Iqbal

A shopkeeper in a building earmarked for demolition has told of his shock after reading in the Gazette that the plans are going ahead.

Zafar Iqbal has run his business, Marsden General Dealers, in Fallow Road, Marsden, South Shields, for 23 years and is now the only occupant in the block of shops with flats above.

The first I knew the signs had gone up on the lamp post was when I was told someone from the Gazette had been in the shop and it was in the paper.

Zafar Iqbal

The 66-year-old said he was aware of the plans a number of years ago but, despite asking what was happening, was told no decision over actual dates had been made.

He said the first he knew a timescale for demolition had been set was when his staff were approached for a comment and he read the article in the paper.

His lease is due to run out in June.

Mr Iqbal said: “Since the council came to see me in 2015, I haven’t heard anything.

“I knew they were going to knock the building down, but didn’t know when. I kept ringing, but I was told there had been no decision made.

“The first I knew a sign had gone up on a lamp post was when I was told someone from the Gazette had been in the shop and it was in the paper.

“They did not inform us directly. I have been here for 23 years.

“I don’t know what is going to happen. I feel very frustrated. I have contacted the council and they are going to come out to see me on Tuesday.

“But I thought they would have come to see me to let me know before the signs went up.”

It is understood that work to demolish the three-storey building which incorporated flats and retail units will start in August.

It comes after the council granted their own planning officers permission to progress the demolition plan, which was put in motion in November.

The council expects the demolition project to take around eight weeks and be completed by the end of September.

A spokesman for the council said: “In our initial meeting with affected occupants about the demolition of the block, it was made clear that we would be negotiating the termination of their tenancies by way of agreement.

“We have had ongoing negotiations and have discussed incentives with this particular tenant. Unfortunately we have reached an impasse.

“The newsagent’s lease is due to expire in the summer. However, we have arranged a meeting with the tenant for later this month to discuss a way forward.

“In the meantime, the council has acquired almost all other units by agreement and secured planning permission for the demolition of the building.”