Council allays fears over future of town ice rink

Whitley Bay Ice Rink.'REF 0301147586
Whitley Bay Ice Rink.'REF 0301147586

Council leaders have moved to allay fears that Whitley Bay Ice Rink will be demolished and replaced by housing.

Concerns had been raised by angry residents and rink users that the site – plus adjoining community buildings and nearby football ground – in Hillheads Road would be knocked down and built on.

The fears came after the land was included in the draft Local Plan which was recently out for consultation by North Tyneside Council.

But last week, deputy mayor Coun Bruce Pickard met with a delegation of players from the town’s ice hockey teams to say there were no plans to demolish the area for housing.

Coun Pickard, who used to play ice hockey for Whitley Braves in his youth, said: “I was delighted to be able to meet representatives from the ice rink in a very constructive meeting, which I hope will have allayed their fears about the future of the site.

“The Whitley Bay Ice Rink and the adjacent football site is integral to the sport and leisure offer of North Tyneside.

“I have agreed to meet with them in a few weeks time to see what the council can do to help them and to discuss how we can work better together in the future.”

The Local Plan, once agreed, will guide the council’s future planning decision for the next 15 years.

The initial draft plan set out a range of options to shape the growth and development, without building on green belt land.

A total of 110 potential development sites – including the ice rink and adjacent football ground – had been included in the draft plan for residents to have their views on.

The site, not owned by the council, was identified in 2008-09 by Northumberland Estates as a future potential development site, meaning it was included in the consultation.

Coun Pickard added: “Although 110 potential sites are included as part of the initial consultation, they will not all be needed.

“We are using this consultation as a means to help us determine which are the best sites to take forward.

“As a council we have made a commitment to being a listening council and that’s why I felt it important to meet those who have concerns and discuss the issues they have.

“We have an open door council and we want to meet face-to-face with communities to discuss their concerns.”

As well as the ice hockey players, nearly 8,000 residents signed an online petition calling for the ice rink to be saved from development.

Suzanne Stinchcombe, who travels to the ice rink from her home in Durham, said: “Whitley Bay Ice Rink is a local treasure for people of all generations to enjoy.

“It would be a terrible thing if this landmark venue that has hosted countless events including internationally renowned acts were to close and be replaced with even more thin, cheap new-build houses that add nothing to the community.”

Kirsty Muir, of Blyth, wrote: “My daughter is a dedicated skater who attends lots of clubs and training course at Whitley Bay.

“If the ice rink was to close there would be no alternative for these thousands of people.”