A new £30m extension to a popular shopping park has been officially opened.
Guests of honour were on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony at Silverlink Point, the newest part of Silverlink Shopping Park in North Shields.
The extension – on the site of the former Travelodge hotel – was led by land owners The Crown Estate and features Next, Sofology, Hobbycraft and Wren Kitchens.
Officials used the Get into Retail initiative, a retail skills training programme for local young people, delivered as part of the development.
Local MPs Alan Campbell and Mary Glindon were joined by Mayor Norma Redfearn, youngsters who completed the Get into Retail scheme, and artists Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie, who designed the public art at the park’s entrance.
Mr Campbell said: “Silverlink Point will enhance the fantastic contribution the park already makes in terms of supporting jobs and economic growth in North Tyneside.
“It’s also been wonderful to meet some of the Get into Retail students today. The initiative is a brilliant example of business working with local communities for the benefit of local people in North Tyneside.”
Mrs Redfearn said: “Silverlink Point is brilliant news for the borough and has helped to bring further investment and jobs to the area.”
Samantha Ross, from The Crown Estate, said: “The development of Silverlink Point has allowed us to bring even more leading brands to Silverlink for shoppers to enjoy, and at the same time support the local economy by creating new jobs in construction and retail.
“I’m pleased that we’re also able to celebrate the success of all the students that participated in Get into Retail.
“The initiative really demonstrates the wider benefit that destinations like Silverlink can create.”
David McVeigh, who completed the Get into Retail course, said: “The course gave me the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in the retail sector, it gave me an insight into both retail and also warehousing and the skills I needed to get a job.”
“I moved onto a retail full time programme and my placement at B&M offered me an 8hr contract at the weekend.”
Cate Watkinson said: “When designing this sculpture we wanted to make sure it was a bold and interesting piece in order to make an impact on the surroundings, and the design means that this piece changes with the light which is a real spectacle to see.
“We’re sure this will make Silverlink Point an even more impressive destination for local people, and I’m delighted that installing this sculpture was so important to The Crown Estate.
“It was important to give back to the local community, and this is why we ensured local workers and suppliers were used including the metal workers as well as the structural and lighting engineers.”
In addition to Get into Retail, the redevelopment of the former Travelodge site to create Silverlink Point saw The Crown Estate work with North Tyneside Council to provide a construction skills training programme for young people.
Both the Council and The Crown Estate also worked closely together to distribute all the furniture from the former hotel to North Tyneside residents in need of support.