After another summer with Whitley Bay seafront boarded up, and businesses along the upper prom beginning to despair, residents have been wondering what on earth was going on.
With the decaying retail units on the lower promenade demolished, it was clear that the underlying structures were sound, yet no attempt was being made at reinstatement.
It now emerges that Capita grossly underestimated the cost of the elaborate artificial bank, topped with a layer of grass, which was to replace the promenade, obliterating a substantial expanse of valuable public space.
This unpopular proposal, denounced in a petition signed by over 3,000 local people, has now been scrapped, along with plans to move the sea wall further out onto the beach. A completely different design team will be working on alternative options, all of which retain the lower prom.
We understand that this time a number of designs will be put to the public before a final decision is made, and that work on the new scheme will begin in the spring. Although this means another difficult summer for seafront businesses, at least Whitley Bay will not now be losing the commercial and recreational potential offered by the promenade.
We are hoping that half a dozen or so permanent retail units and shelters will be incorporated below a fully reinstated upper prom, while the ample space remaining can be used to accommodate seasonal pods and other attractions, as well as regular markets.
Work has already begun on the Dome, which promises to be an exciting focal point capable of drawing in the crowds, but a prosperous seaside resort needs more than one big attraction, and we are now in a position to make the most of the whole of the seafront area. The promenade could offer opportunities to start-up businesses, and perhaps arts and crafts workshops and outlets featuring our abundant local talent.
We hope that as many people as possible will let their councillors know how they would like to see the prom developed, and that these ideas will be taken into consideration by the design team in drawing up the options.
We also trust that in future projects Capita will have the grace to carry out the wishes of residents, as instructed by their representatives, rather than eliminating all the more acceptable options before any meaningful consultation has taken place. Public servants should not usurp the place of their masters, and they should certainly be held to account for wasting millions of pounds of public money on hare-brained schemes.
A New Beginning