Watch as driving instructors gather to mark 'end of an era' with the closure of South Tyneside driving test centre
Campaigners have promised to keep fighting as they gathered to mark the closure of South Tyneside’s driving test centre.
Protesters held demonstrations throughout the year in an attempt to force the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) into a u-turn on the issue.
The decision has prompted concerns over the impact it could have on the cost of lessons, as well as increased congestion in Sunderland, where many learner drivers from the borough will now be forced to take their tests.
But as the centre, in Jarrow's Bede Industrial Estate, prepared for its last day in business today (Friday, April 8), ahead of its official closing date on Sunday (April 10), driving instructors hit by the change have said they will keep pushing for it to be reinstated.
"Some of the examiners have been there for over 20 years – it will be the end of an era,” said Vikki Holt, one of the organisers of the campaign to keep the centre open.
"The test centre has been the location of a lot of life-changing memories for people and we didn’t want it to just slip quietly into the night.
"We’re still fighting and just because the closure has to happen, there’s no reason for it to stay closed.”
Data obtained through Freedom of Information (FoI) rules had raised hopes the decision could be reversed, when it was revealed the South Tyneside facility cost the DVSA less than £10,400 in 2020/21, including rates, utilities and a token ‘peppercorn rent’.
A DVSA spokesperson said: “We have made the decision to close the South Shields driving test centre, as there are other nearby centres where the same services can be relocated.
“We understand this change may cause an inconvenience for some, but we have worked hard to ensure that there is no change in the number of tests provided to local candidates, and no tests were lost as a result of the closure.
“It is vital that learners are prepared to drive safely on all types of road before taking their test, rather than simply learning driving test centre routes.”