I have been lucky to live all my life in the Tynemouth and Cullercoats area.
As a younger person I enjoyed our beautiful coastline and in the summer, yes, I took part in what may be considered anti-social behaviour. I feel this was a valuable part of my development, testing out what was safe and learning about myself and others.
I am worried by the current tone relating to anti-social behaviour and the recent rally against it in Cullercoats. I believe we are in danger of demonising young people.
Going to the coast and young people letting their hair down is part of our culture and needs to be accepted and embraced.
I agree that anti-social behaviour, such as theft and vandalism, is unacceptable, and there are clearly safeguarding concerns when young, potentially vulnerable, people gather on mass and may use alcohol or other substances.
But why should we who are lucky enough to live in this beautiful environment say ‘enough is enough’ and deny young people the ability to engage in activity that others may find unacceptable?
I do not attend Tynemouth market at the weekend and use Cullercoats Metro Station when it is on. I find the hordes of Bargain Hunt fans intimidating. However, I accept that they feel the need to gather and use a communal space in a way I don’t understand.
Is there not another way to move forward here and a potential opportunity to look positively at engaging and helping young people?
Blanket bans on alcohol and excluding groups simply pushes the problems to other areas and drives it further underground, potentially putting young people at greater risk. Could we not look at having areas were we permit young people to gather and try to engage them in a safe, positive way?
Generally, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the gentrification of our coast. Some activities are permissible, such as a seafood restaurant taking over an entire beach, allowing people to drink and light fires, which is seen as acceptable, whilst young people gathering on another beach drinking is seen as entirely unacceptable.
The coast and our beaches are a shared resource, which no one owns. People use this resource in various ways, some for business, others for solitude, and other choose to gather and use them socially, and clearly there is a conflict in these uses.
We all have a right to use our public spaces. We need to be tolerant of others, even if we do not understand their behaviour or see it as acceptable.
We were all young once and wouldn’t be the people we are today if we didn’t make a few mistakes and go too far from time to time. This anti-social behaviour at the coast has been a problem for longer than I have been alive.
What right do we have to deny young people their right to enjoy our coast, even if, myself included, middle-aged and broadly middle class people, who are lucky enough to afford and live by the beautiful North Tyneside coast, do not agree with it.
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