Campaigners battling to save a sea front cafe say key issues were ignored by councillors who agreed to press ahead with its demolition.
A packed public gallery watched on as members of North Tyneside Council agreed at their full council meeting on Monday to demolish the Boardwalk Cafe.
More than 2,000 people had signed a petition calling for the cafe, on Watts Slope in Whitley Bay, to remain open as it was a popular venue overlooking the beach.
However, members agreed the facility needed to go as part of a regeneration plan for the northern promenade, leaving members of the ‘Save and Revamp the Boardwalk’ campaign group feeling as if the decision had been made before the meeting.
Campaigner Gillian Swanson said: “The outcome could have been predicted from the moment we entered the council chamber and saw the ranks of Labour councillors – all of them supporting agreed party policy that the Boardwalk must go, and making a nonsense of our initial plea that this should not be treated as a party political issue.
“Not a single point which we offered for discussion was addressed, not even when repeated with added emphasis by opposition councillors.
“We were simply fed the same tired old press release stuff, with much bandying about of the word ‘vision’ and no reasonable explanation of why that ‘vision’ could not be adjusted, by popular demand, to include a café on the beach.”
Campaigners also said two key points were missed – that a successful businessperson had offered to take over the cafe, with a year’s rent in advance; while the council refused to discuss the issue of due process of being in a rush to demolish the cafe before the ‘masterplan’ for the promenade had been completed.
Mrs Swanson added: “We can only wonder what the outcome would have been if Whitley Bay, instead of being mopped up by the unrepresentative unitary authority of North Tyneside, had its own council.
“The Mayor was eager to point out that a mere 2,000 or so people had signed our petition. However, this impressive number was rallied in a very short time: and we have little doubt that within a week we could have doubled it.”
Conservative councillors expressed their dismay that Labour members supported the demolition without any consultation.
Group leader Coun Judith Wallace said: “There is an unseemly haste to demolish this café. We’re told that there will be a Master Plan prepared for consultation on the Whitley Bay sea front, and we welcome that.
“However, this café, which is a long standing part of the area, will be demolished now, before the consultation, so residents are effectively being prevented from giving opinions on having a café here.
“The intended Kiosk replacement, open only a few months a year and subject to the elements, is a backward step.
“The excuse that the demolition will improve the view is ludicrous; I’ve never had a single resident or visitor complain that their view is blocked.”