Coast

A council would improve situation

A letter from Robin and Alla Smith (News Guardian, June 18) questions the basis of plans to demolish Whitley Bay’s Central Lower Promenade.

Thousands of North Tyneside residents, and thousands more from neighbouring areas, would agree with the points raised.

But this is not the only example of a divergence between North Tyneside Council’s ‘Master Plan’ for Whitley Bay and the preferences of those who actually live here.

On the same day, a letter from D J Fenn focuses on a coming bone of contention: the over-large and flashy building which the council plans to site inappropriately in the middle of a wildlife conservation area on St Mary’s Headland.

This, again, is the subject of a petition signed by thousands.

Then there is the ‘exciting’ descent of what appears to be a large garden shed onto the patch of Tarmac which marks the site of the late lamented Boardwalk Café.

This unattractive seasonal kiosk, open only from July to September, recalls yet another fruitless petition by local people in the grip of decisions taken behind closed doors and rubber-stamped by councillors from outside the coastal area.

It is clear from the council’s dogged adherence to all details of its ‘Master Plan’, despite thousands of us begging it to think again, that petitions are not the answer.

Whitley Bay needs to be able to plead its case with authority - which is why we are currently in discussion with the National Association of Local Councils with a view to establishing a town council for the coastal area.

Although this could never enjoy the kind of autonomy characteristic of the old urban district councils, it might at least stop the voice of residents being routinely drowned out by a standing majority of representatives from other areas.

There are four main ways in which a town council might improve our present unhappy situation.

1. It would provide a local forum for the discussion of issues directly affecting the coast. Development plans, for instance, would have to be presented to local representatives before any decisions were made, making proper consultation more likely.

2. It would be able to speak up for us on such issues with a democratically representative and unified voice, unaffected by a resort to party-political block voting in the larger council.

3. It would be able to provide a range of services and activities, and to seek the funding to finance them on its own account.

4. It would be able to support the activities of groups within the community, and support them with funding.

It might also be possible to set up a ‘Coast Currency’, which would be of significant advantage to local traders.

Naturally, people will be wary of committing themselves to anything which would increase local taxes - and yes, a town council will require a supplementary payment.

However, this varies from council to council in relation to the level of services provided, and need not be large.

In Bridlington, for instance, where only three part-time staff members are employed, and the premises are basic but adequate, Band D council-tax payers are charged an additional £15 per year, and the highest band pays only £30 extra.

We will be contacting groups in the area in the near future with a view to establishing the level of support within the coastal area.

Pamela Hood

Gillian Swanson

For ‘A New Beginning’