MARKET traders are at loggerheads with council bosses as the first stage in a £100m masterplan for South Shields town centre is about to be launched.
Coun Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, and chief executive Martin Swales will be in South Shields Market Place tomorrow to launch demolition work on the eyesore building Wouldhave House.
That will start ‘South Shields 365’, through which the town will be transformed over the next decade with the creation of a new central library, hotel, cinema complex, public open spaces, retail complex and much more.
But market traders had an at-times fiery meeting with council bosses on Friday over proposals for the future of the Market Square.
A new grassed area and amphitheatre form part of the ambitious masterplan and, although traders are to remain in the square, they are to be moved to the part of the site closest to King Street.
They fear, however, the creation of a “two-tier” market because the long-term plans are for some stallholders to do business opposite the Lloyds TSB Bank in Barrington Street.
They are planning a ‘Save Our Market’ protest when the council leaders gather for the launch tomorrow.
Stallholder Lynn Lucas said: “At the meeting, I was told I was being aggressive. I’m only aggressive in wanting to save this market. Why do we need to dig up the market to put grass down. All it will be is a dog’s toilet.”
David Milligan, who has traded in the market for 30 years, said: “They’re trying to split us up, and we don’t want it. We need to stay together. The market needs to stay on one site if it is to survive.”
Despite the negative feedback from some of the traders, David Cramond, the council’s corporate director for Regeneration, said talks had been “positive”.
He said: “We provided reassurance around a number of concerns.
“Traders were happy with the temporary arrangements around the demolition programme, and there was strong support for closer joint working as we take the plans forward.
“The demolition programme is set to start this month, coinciding with the ‘kipper season’ – the winter period which is traditionally the quietest time of year for market traders.
“The work is expected to take around 14 weeks, with full capacity restored in time for the busy summer season.”
Coun Michael Clare, South Tyneside Council’s lead member for regeneration and economy, said: “South Shields 365 is a bold vision for a radical redevelopment and the market is an important part of that.
“Only around a third of the market place will be closed off for safety reasons during the demolition.
“In the long-term, an improved market is expected to accommodate about 78 stalls, about the same as on a good trading day in the summer.”