Bay regeneration plans meet with mixed reception

REGENERATION plans proposed for Cullercoats were given a mixed reception at a community-led meeting held last Thursday.

The meeting was organised by residents unhappy about an earlier consultation event held by North Tyneside Council to gather views on its coastal regeneration masterplan.

Some residents thought the way that meeting had been conducted was too rigid, with some of those who attended complaining that they were unable to get their views across, as reported in the News Guardian at the time.

Last week’s meeting at Cullercoats Community Centre was the exact opposite but also left many of those there disgruntled, this time around because it was “a bit chaotic” and “very rowdy”.

Meeting chairman Nathan Allonby claimed the village was in the grips of despondency as residents feared that the council had already made up its mind about its regeneration plans.

Mr Allonby said one of the main problems with the masterplan was the way it, and the accompanying consultation process, had been put together, adding: “It was prepared by consulting firms, some based in London, by people who have not been to the area and not really knowing us.”

Peter Mortimer, of Marden Terrace, attended both meetings and wasn’t impressed by either.

He said: “The first time, I think, people expected a public meeting – a democratic way to air their views – then we were divided into little units of five or six, which was not what we expected at all. People were frustrated.

“This time, it was a public meeting, but nobody was there to answer questions.

“It just seemed like a reversal of the last meeting, and it was hard without a proper agenda.

“It was a bit chaotic. Nathan tried to sort it out – I felt a bit sorry for him – but without a structure or anything, there was no way of going forward.”

However, not everyone agreed with the criticism directed at the first meeting, including Andrew Webb, of Beverley Terrace, Cullercoats, who took over the chair from Mr Allonby last week after being asked to help restore some order to proceedings.

Mr Webb said after last week’s meeting: “I thought it was very generous of the council to allocate £1m to Cullercoats.

“With regards to the first meeting, we had excellent advice at the table we were at, and there were layouts and diagrams.

“There was a fair bit of comment from the floor. They wanted a more open meeting, saying it was too controlled, but I didn’t think that was the case.

“What was missing from both the first meeting and this one was suggestions as to what things people want to see. There should have been new proposals.

“Once you have decided what you are going to do, you need to make a point in a clear way.

“The latest meeting seemed to get very rowdy. It was a very unfair view of what the council is offering.

“I thought the meeting was getting out of hand. It started to go completely the wrong way.

“If there is one thing I feel strongly about it is that I would like the council to come back and tell us what the actual plans are when they are finalised.”

Opinions were divided over the new toilets and road improvements proposed and also about what should be done with the council-owned Bank Top Cottages.

North Tyneside mayor Linda Arkley said afterwards: “Although our team was unable to attend last week’s meeting, they have received the minutes, which will be considered along with the many responses we’ve had so far.

“We will share those responses, and the next steps, on the council’s website soon.

“We will also be happy to share the information through local drop-in events where we will undertake more detailed consultation on specific proposals, giving further opportunities for people to have their say.

“However, it is also important to get on with making these important improvements as quickly as possible as they will make a significant difference to our coast for residents, businesses and visitors.

“We will therefore begin work on a programme of essential repair works and improvements to steps, paths and other structures around Cullercoats Bay as soon as the summer holidays are over.”