Promenade

Group wants other options explored

There have been a number of letters recently concerning the mayor’s plan to demolish Whitley Bay’s Central Lower Promenade and replace it with a steep grass embankment.

The Conservative opposition group on the council met with the chief executive to discuss this issue.

It was stated the Upper Promenade was unsafe, hence the bollards placed to stop cars driving on the pavement.

We pointed out that those residents and businesses interested in bringing the shop units back into use were not proposing to drive vehicles up and down on top of them.

We were told that the Prom, pathway and road above were ‘structurally unsound’.

I asked in that case why people and cars were still being allowed to use both the path and the road?

It was said it would become structurally unsound at some point in the future ‘because it was old’.

I also asked about infilling the shop units for strength so we could at least retain the Prom to walk along - which I was told was a different engineering solution (obviously) and ‘much more expensive’.

I was unable to get an answer when I asked how much more expensive.

The fact is the council never investigated funding for any other option than demolition and still refuses to do so. How can it claim that other options are unaffordable if it hasn’t even looked for funding streams?

It is my view and that of the Conservative Group that the Prom and shop units should be restored and re-used if at all possible.

The country’s finances and the economic climate is much brighter now and there are enthusiastic entrepreneurs out there who would be keen to launch small businesses in such an iconic location.

Not everyone will agree, but around 3,000 signatures on the recent petitions would suggest that most do.

No one can argue that there was adequate or meaningful consultation with the public on the fate of the Prom, and even Labour councillors have admitted this.

The ‘Master Plan’ describes work on the Prom as ‘reconstruction’ – a hugely misleading description which suggests refurbishment and repair, rather than the plan for destruction and replacement with a steep grass bank.

There are also unanswered questions as to whether this grass bank will withstand winter storms and tides, or will wash away and cause real safety problems.

Demolition of the Prom is scheduled for the start of July, possibly sooner.

The granting of planning permission allows demolition to take place but it does not make it inevitable.

The Conservative Group is urging Mayor Norma Redfearn to give the Prom a stay of execution, look seriously into other options and possible funding and let residents work alongside the council to make the Prom into the vibrant attraction it used to be and could be again.

Coun Alison Austin

Monkseaton North Ward