Protesters could bid to buy cycle-hub land

Friends of the Spanish Battery campaign leaders Lee Mitchell, Sally McGee and Bill Corrigan. Picture by John Millard
Friends of the Spanish Battery campaign leaders Lee Mitchell, Sally McGee and Bill Corrigan. Picture by John Millard

Campaigners fighting against the development of a cycle hub on the Spanish Battery headland at Tynemouth have received backing from the area’s MP.

Alan Campbell and ward councillors Sarah Day and Frances Weetman revealed they will be supporting protests – which include a petition with 2,800 signatures – over the Watch House Garden proposal, which will include a café or restaurant, shop, rooftop garden and outside terrace.

Mr Campbell said: “Tynemouth is an award-winning seaside village and the reason for that success is because regeneration has been sensitive and has had the backing of most residents. It is clear that this proposed development is neither sensitive to the area nor does it have local backing.

“We all want to welcome visitors including cyclists to Tynemouth, but it’s not obvious that this site in particular marks the end of the cycle way nor is there anything proposed here that could not be provided nearby either in the village or as part of the Fish Quay regeneration.

“But above all this is green open space, part of Tynemouth’s history, and much loved by visitors and residents alike. Just because it’s possible to develop somewhere doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea. Take away a quiet open space and you cannot easily put it back.”

Coun Day added: “Although I am not opposed to a cycle hub in general, I do not believe that the Spanish Battery site is a suitable location. It’s one of the last quiet spaces in the area for residents and visitors alike and it would be a real shame to lose it for future generations. Once it’s gone we will not get it back.”

Meanwhile, the Friends of the Spanish Battery campaign group has approached North Tyneside Council about the plot of land, presently public open space, earmarked for the venture.

The developers own most of the land needed and have approached the council about buying a large stretch of the adjacent grassy embankment.

Friends of the Spanish Battery is considering making a rival bid for the land, with one idea being to transform the threatened embankment with wild flowers to enhance the area and encourage biodiversity on the headland.

Bill Corrigan, chairman of the Friends of the Spanish Battery, said: “Our aim is to safeguard this peaceful and historic area for future generations.”

Another campaign leader, Sally McGee, said: “This is land is already owned by us, the people. North Tyneside Council is simply the custodian and should not sell to developers.”

But Josh Boyle, one of the founders of the Watch House Garden project, has said: “Our designs turn the current private garden and unusable, overgrown slope into an accessible green space for all the public to enjoy, essentially increasing the green space available on the Spanish Battery.

“A full visual impact assessment has been carried out on the proposed development site and it shows that the Cycle hub will not even be visible from approximately 95 per cent of the headland.”

He added: “We are essentially three local lads who hope to ensure a successful and sustainable business that will provide jobs for the area and enhance local tourism by attracting more people to Tynemouth.

“From the outset, we ensured that the designs fitted into such an important and iconic area as the Spanish Battery and that they would not impact the back drop of the Brigade Watch House, as well as having as many consultations with as many stakeholders in the local area as possible.”