Online Archive  
Issue 12 - May 1973
Town Hall Vandals
In a short while, the government's plan to reorganise local government will come into effect. When existing areas come under the management of 'enlightened' officers this reorganisation could prove beneficial. However, local government has traditionally been responsible for distorting the ideals and initiative of its more socially responsible officers to such an extent that they either accept the status quo and become apathetic and conforming, or reject it and move on. A majority in the administration are unable to comprehend the complexities of the problem with which they deal, through lack of training or disinterest in the people they theoretically serve. The situation is unlikely to change with reorganisation, because areas become larger and more unwieldy, and because no new breed of super officer is emerging. In fact, in many areas of local government activity, a serious shortage of staff will increase. Communities will be destroyed, social services and maintenance neglected, and social problems will increase as the environment in which people live disintegrates.

Such a situation could arise in the South Tyne area, which comprises of what was Jarrow, Hebburn, Boldon and South Shields. The reason - the professionals at S.Shields, who will be largely responsible for the running of the new area, couldn't even run Shields.

The following is an attempt at a rough sketch of what these 'professionals' have done to Shields over the past few years, and could be a guideline to what might happen to the wider area over the next few years.

S.Shields is on the south bank of the Tyne. Its boundaries include 2 miles of coast and 3 miles of river. The coast has 1¼ miles of beach and ¾ miles of cliff. It has a large tourist trade. But the town hall seems to have done its best to destroy the beautiful and natural coast.

The Coast
A 400 yard wide stretch of grass called the Leas exists along the length of the cliffs. It's there, not through any enlightened policy of the council but by accident - a mineral line from the former Marsden Colliery to the Tyne restricted the spread of the town in the direction of the cliffs (although the council can be credited with its subsequent preservation intact). The council has developed a council estate adjacent to this line which pays absolutely no attention in its design to its proximity to a magnificent coastline. In fact, the houses closest to the Leas actually face away from the sea, so the view from the front room is the usual one of houses and parked cars and the view from the Leas is of tatty back gardens, washing and old sheds.

Critics have claimed that houses should never have been built so close to the cliffs. Cliffs are dangerous, especially where small children are concerned. However, accidents are few and if an adequate fence were provided - not the present iron bar which any small kid can crawl under and which doesn't exist along some of the more dangerous sections - they could be further reduced.

However, one man who is serious about the cliff dangers is Councillor Smith, the Chairman of the Progressives (sic), who literally wants to blow the cliffs up, leaving just a gentle slope, thereby not only destroying the tourist industry but also annihilating the best bird sanctuary for miles. It's saddening to report that Councillor Smith has no plans for blowing up the town's roads which account for immeasurably more deaths and injuries than the cliffs could ever hope to.

Further up the coast, the council tried a bit of 'redevelopment' a couple of years ago. This consisted of flattening a mile-long stretch of sand dunes which not only looked amazing but also prevented the sane following the seagulls inland. This was done without publicity or explanation. To replace the dunes the council is considering an application to build a lovely concrete hotel.

What sand remains is dirty and no real attempt is being made to either clean it or prevent its dispersal to the winds.

Little heavy traffic finds its way into the town. Also the town has one of the lowest car ownership ratios in the country. Therefore, no major road systems are needed. But the Borough Engineers Dept, headed by Mr Alexander Gourlay, has seemed intent on infesting the town with roundabouts and roads which are motorways in all but name. Naturally most of the past and future devastation has, and will, take place in the working class areas of the town.

Two recent examples of this motorway madness are the John Reid Road on the south of the town and Anderson Street, which is right in the town centre, and demolished half a mile of houses on its way to, believe it or not, the town hall. Both of these roads rarely feel the weight of more than one car at a time along their crazy lengths.

But Gourlay hasn't learnt from past bungling and his department is now planning a link-up, via a huge roundabout, to the beginning of Anderson Street. This link-up will result in a road bridge over the busiest part of the town and the whole thing will result in the town centre being split in half and half of Ocean Road being demolished. With plans for destroying the town centre completed, Gourlay and his mob are now planning to smash up other parts of the town.

A new dual carriageway is to demolish the Tyne Dock Arches and carve a path through the Tyne Dock area of the town, cutting it in half. Another huge road, roughly following the existing Westoe Road, demolishes a broad strip of houses.

Geographically S.Shields is a dead end, being hemmed in on two sides by the Tyne and the coast. There is no way for a car to cross the Tyne in Shields - the nearest point being the Tyne tunnel at Jarrow. Most of the factories are on the Shields / Jarrow borders, and is to terminate at the centre of the world - S.Shields Town Hall - and turn it into a huge roundabout.

It's impossible to even try to give a brief description of housing in S Shields. So we aren't even going to try. All we'll say is that the estates have to be seen to be believed because lack of planning and maintenance, trees, play areas, litter bins and community services, together with few shops and a bad bus service, is quickly turning even the new estates into slums.

The most horrifying thing about this whole story is that after reorganisation, these same incompetents will be lodged on the entire S. Tyne area.