LIVING Streets has contributed to a recent government report* aimed at revitalising our town centres.
This offers a set of positive measures that provide an opportunity for local authorities such as North Tyneside to halt the long-term decline of places like Whitley Bay.
At the heart of the report are improvements to public spaces, making them less dominated by traffic and more attractive for a variety of uses.
Lots of ideas and examples for improvements are given, and Whitley Bay can build on its advantages such as a vibrant population and a splendid natural setting.
It is clear that a strategy of trying to compete with out-of-town shopping centres will continue the slow decline of the town centre.
It is important to retain local food shops and other facilities which are greatly valued by local residents.
Whitley Bay also needs to offer creativity, interest and entertainment in a safe and attractive environment.
This will encourage more residents to shop locally and will attract more visitors.
It is disappointing that the council seem to be mainly concerned about car access rather than achieving a more balanced approach.
The government report recognises that people who walk to high streets spend more in a wider variety of shops than those who drive.
Getting it right for Whitley Bay would see a more attractive town centre and seafront with more visitors spending more time in the area, giving the economy a boost while improving the quality of life all round.
The way forward is for North Tyneside Council to embrace the principles set out in the government report and to take the lead in putting together a coalition of business leaders, residents, and other interested parties such as Living Streets and cycling groups.
I hope that the council will react positively to this opportunity.
* Re-imagining urban spaces to help revitalise our high streets (Department of Communities and Local Government, July 2012).
Living Streets Tyneside Area