Town Centre Blueprint Taking Shape
The views and ideas of almost 1,300 residents are being built into a new blueprint for South Shields town centre.
Local people aged 12 to 75 took part in the South Tyneside Conversation survey and helped to shape an emerging masterplan for the future of the town.
Pop up cafes and shops, a cycle hub on the ferry landing, green spaces, retail space for small businesses and more activity at the market place with a food hall and recreational activities are all being considered as the plan takes shape.
Consistent themes emerged from the public consultation, with residents asking for better variety of shops, a relocated College, quality green spaces, a refurbished Customs House, investment in the market place and more spaces for small local retailers to set up shop.
The town centre was divided into five 'zones' for discussion: Mill Dam, New College, Town Centre, Coronation Street, and Southern Gateway.
Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "We wanted local people to be at the heart of discussions about the future of the town and we're delighted that so many took part in the Conversation and shared their exciting ideas and suggestions.
"How we live has changed a lot lately - we work, shop and relax differently. We all know that high streets which rely solely on retail are a thing of the past.
"We're exploring how we provide opportunities for businesses and traders by making good use of our empty buildings. Examples of this, which will feature in the masterplan, include introducing a food hall or indoor market space at one of these locations.
"Residents are also keen for us to improve the waterfront area at Mill Dam so we're considering pop-up food, drink and retail outlets, along with a cycle hub at the ferry landing.
"Increasing footfall is paramount, and more than 80 per cent of local people agree with us that the college move will be positive, leading to a livelier town centre which will benefit businesses.
"This is about looking to the future and, together, shaping a town centre that appeals to all generations."
There was overwhelming support for South Tyneside College's move into the town centre, and a planning application will be submitted in the coming weeks to create a modern campus spanning King Street and Barrington Street. The proposed relocation will also include a new public square, gardens and green spaces.
One resident who was in favour of the idea said: "It should generate demand for different shops and services and hopefully stimulate demand for reoccupation of shops at the western end of King Street. Also, more vibrancy generally."
The masterplan will also explore opportunities for outdoor exhibition space, play activities and public art along King Street and seek to boost activity at the marketplace - building on significant investment in recent years.
The Coronation Street zone has been earmarked for potential car park expansion as there will be a need to maintain a sustainable level of car parking, particularly with the relocation of the college and the redevelopment of car parks elsewhere. However, this will be reviewed as development comes forward, and the use of public transport will be maximised wherever possible.
The Mill Dam area is already seen as great for socialising and leisure but two thirds of people questioned thought it needed more places to eat and drink options, and a large majority backed the idea of refurbishing the Customs House.
The masterplan is exploring the option of food, drink and retails outlets in pop-ups, as well as enhancing the Customs House with new eateries and increased rehearsal space.
In the 'Southern Gateway' zone, to the south of King Street, three out of five people surveyed supported the idea of new homes and green spaces, so these ideas will be taken forward into the masterplan.
Work has been ongoing since 2021 to acquire land and properties needed to facilitate the delivery of new homes in this area, using £6m awarded to the council from the Future High Streets Fund.
Upper floors of commercial premises could be repurposed to create homes, along with potential new residential development on Charlotte Street, Winchester Street and Mount Terrace.
The site of the former Central Library is also likely to house new student accommodation, with demolition of the building about to get underway imminently.
Cllr Dixon added: "We're listening to local people, and we will take forward as many your ideas as possible.
"The world has changed. The pandemic accelerated changing patterns of high street retail spend and gave us the opportunity to re-evaluate our plans so that they can be flexible and adaptable to the changing nature of town centres and the market.
"Over the last decade, the council has invested significantly and created the infrastructure and environment to generate confidence in the private sector to invest.
"We will continue to do that, unlocking land for development and focusing on our public realm, while acting as enable and influencer and working alongside businesses and property owners to reshape the town centre.
"This is one piece of the jigsaw in the regeneration of our borough."
The full masterplan will be launched in the summer, with a series of engagement events planned. This was the first in a series of 'Conversations', with further consultation and masterplanning for Hebburn and Jarrow planned for later this year.
For further information and to see more of the results of the Conversation, visit www.ourconversation.co.uk.