Dome plans still in place despite funding failure

Council chiefs have pledged to personally oversee the transformation of an iconic building despite seeing an initial bid for funding turned down.

Plans had been drawn up and approved to transform the Spanish City site in Whitley Bay into a popular visitor attraction once again.

But those proposals suffered a blow after it came to light this week that North Tyneside Council’s bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was rejected back in April.

Now, Mayor Norma Redfearn says she is taking a personal interest in moving forward the redevelopment and giving residents something they can be proud of.

Mrs Redfearn, who was angry to find out in June that the HLF bid had been unsuccessful, said: “I’ve had lots and lots of enquiries from residents, not just those in Whitley Bay but right across the borough.

“I thought it was just the locals who were interested in the redevelopment of the Dome but it’s everyone. They want to see it restored. The building belongs to everyone.

“We want to create a facility that everyone in the borough wants to use, every day. This is all about what the people of North Tyneside want.”

Mrs Redfearn said the council had submitted another bid to the Heritage Lottery and they were hoping to get a response in December.

But in the meantime, she is keen to hear from residents what they would like to see happen in the Dome and how the site should be developed.

“We’re very determined to make this happen,” she told the News Guardian.

“We want to work with the people and get them on board. They have a passion about places like this. It’s an iconic building.

“This has been going on for 14 years. We’ve had four sets of plans drawn up. The last thing we want is to have more plans.”

Mrs Redfearn said that during her election campaign the two key issues brought up by residents was the regeneration of Wallsend town centre and the Spanish City site.

“We have taken on board what people said,” she added.

“Fortunately the funding is there for Wallsend. People are happy it’s going forward.

“Now we have to do something about the Dome. This is the beginning. We will make it happen.”

The council has been working with north east developers Robertsons on the proposals for the Spanish City and Dome site.

The plans include an activity centre in the Grade II listed dome as well as food and retail outlets and community space.

The surrounding areas will feature a 60-bed hotel, a care home and apartments, while the nearby Avenue pub, which has stood empty for years, is to be replaced by 24 townhouses.

Mrs Redfearn said she was keen to hold meetings with officials at Robertsons to discuss moving the plans on.

Speaking about the failed HLF bid, a council spokesperson said: “Although the bid was recommended for approval by the local HLF office and the national Board of Trustees in April, the council was told that this bid had not been successful due to the high number of bids received.

“The HLF Board of Trustees has invited the council to resubmit the Spanish City proposal under a new Heritage Enterprise Fund priority.

“In the meantime the external improvements to create the piazza is continuing and we are ensuring that it is used for community benefit whenever possible, such as the Whitley Bay Film Festival currently taking place.”