Campaigners not ‘just complaining’

In reply to S Nairn (News Guardian, June 4), it is incorrect to say that campaigners wishing to save the Central Lower Promenade are ‘just complaining’.

The overwhelming number of those we spoke to while petitioning on the streets of Whitley Bay did not simply say what they didn’t want - they stated clearly that what they wanted was a like-for-like restoration of the units on the promenade in order to bring some life and activity back into the seafront area of our town centre.

We have seen the engineer’s report from 2011 on which the council based its decision. It considers the proposed grass slope to be the least acceptable option and recommends retention and restoration of the lower promenade and its retail units.

The Central Lower Promenade is a potential asset and should be restored and exploited commercially, as suggested in the engineer’s report. Other places have managed to recover badly neglected property and turn it to good account. Why not Whitley Bay?

How would a town council help? We are currently looking into this and were invited to visit the Mayor of Bridlington, where they have a town council within the East Riding of Yorkshire unitary authority, on a (no-expenses-paid) fact-finding mission.

We understand that one thing a local council can offer is more effective local consultation and greater local control over planning decisions affecting the local area.

Bridlington has done great things with its seafront since having its own council.

Please do not sneer at sincere efforts to rescue and revive the promenade at the very heart of our seafront by people who love this town.

This is not a ‘petty action to delay redevelopment’. We are all in favour of positive development rather than the defeatist option of yet another grassy slope – as if Whitley Bay didn’t have enough already!

You speak sadly of the present state of our town. Have you asked yourself who is responsible for all this ‘unsavoury’ and ‘unpleasant’ dereliction? Certainly not the residents, who have been faithfully paying their taxes to North Tyneside Council for the past 40 years in the expectation that the ‘public servants’ at Cobalt will equally faithfully discharge their duties of maintenance and repair

Instead, our distant unitary authority has presided over the steady disintegration of Whitley Bay’s amenities and basic infrastructure.

Rather than respecting and caring for our local heritage assets, keeping pavements in good repair, and regularly painting the railings along the seafront, it has chosen to waste what little money it feels can be spared for Whitley Bay on such things as demolishing and building schools in the seafront area, inappropriately relocating a small section of the main coast road at a cost of £1.8m and constructing a windswept and dangerous ‘plaza’ for another £1.2m: £3m which would have been more than enough to cover the alleged difference in cost between the grass-bank option and full restoration of the lower promenade and its units when these were first found to be in dire need of attention back in 2004.

The Central Promenade is not just an isolated building like the Avenue or the High Point, which may be replaced without detracting significantly from their surroundings. Along with Grant’s Clock, the Rex Hotel and the Dome, the promenade, with its distinctive (and low-maintenance) balustrade, is part of the essential fabric of our town, and its loss would cut through links with the past while needlessly denying future possibilities.

Over recent decades, North Tyneside has wiped millions off the value of Whitley Bay’s capital assets through sheer dereliction of duty.

It is only right it should make good at least a small part of this depreciation by fully restoring a well-loved public amenity which it has allowed to fall into disrepair.

By urging us to accept the decision to demolish the promenade as the least-worst option, you are encouraging the council not only to persist in its culpable neglect of our infrastructure but to continue in the assumption that when any structure, however significant, has become obtrusively decrepit it can conveniently be knocked down.

Pamela Hood

Gillian Swanson

A New Beginning