NORTH Tyneside Council’s plans to build a joint service centre in Whitley Bay are to go ahead after all.
Traders have welcomed the Planning Inspectorate’s reversal of councillors’ rejection of the project in November, saying it will breathe new life into the town.
The appeal was submitted by Newcastle and North Tyneside Local Improvement Finance Trust Company – the joint venture, made up of building firm Robertson North East and the city and borough’s councils and primary care trusts, that drew up the plans – together with Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade.
The rejection of the initial planning application for the three-storey building by the council’s planning committee sparked an immediate campaign calling for a rethink.
A petition protesting against the planners’ refusal was signed by 1,000 people.
Council officials and traders are delighted that their appeal has been given the thumbs-up.
Chamber of trade chairman Karen Goldfinch said: “It’s fantastic news for the town.
“We appreciate the support of the people in the town who got behind us.
“This centre is going to make a big difference and be of benefit to traders and residents.
“It’s going to be a service for everyone, and I can’t wait to see work start on it.”
The multi-million-pound project will see the redevelopment of land behind the former Whitley Bay Coliseum site, off York Road, to create a new library, tourist information service, payment kiosks for council services, and improved access to healthcare.
Concerns had been raised that private-finance initiative credits provisionally awarded to the project by the government would be withdrawn unless a commitment to the scheme was made by the end of this month, but those fears have now been allayed.
North Tyneside mayor Linda Arkley said: “This is great news for Whitley Bay and its residents and traders, who made it perfectly clear during extensive consultation that they wanted this facility in the town centre.
“It was incredibly disappointing when the project faced being shelved following the planning committee decision, but now we have to do everything we can to get on and deliver this for Whitley Bay.”
The Planning Inspectorate rejected concerns there would be inadequate parking provision for the building, pointing out that there are almost 200 car park and on-street spaces nearby.
A spokesman said: “It appears that there would be more than sufficient parking capacity in and around the town centre to satisfy the demand associated with this proposal.”
Concerns about pedestrian safety resulting from the development were also rejected.
The design and character of the proposed building was judged to “sit comfortably with its surroundings and make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the area”.
The inspectorate also allowed an application for an award of the cost of the appeal against the council.