Progress on bringing life back to two prominent seafront sites has been hailed as light at the end of the tunnel for a town’s coastal strip.
North Tyneside councillors have approved a planning bid to develop what has been described as a “wasteland” site at the junction of the Promenade and Esplanade in Whitley Bay.
The seafront has suffered for several years from boarded up sites such as the High Point Hotel, former Whiskey Bends bar and The Avenue pub.
The cleared site which was once occupied by the Alletsa ballroom and Sylvester’s nightclub has been lying vacant for more than four years.
Now the planning approval will see the site developed after the demolition of an empty adjacent house in poor condition on the Esplanade.
There are plans to build nine town houses and five apartments on the site.
This will bring more residents back into the seafront area, with the former Esplanade Hotel opposite also having been recently converted into apartments.
Planners say this will not only send out encouraging signs of recovery but will also help the town centre economy.
The planning go-ahead also follows the news last week that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given a £182,000 development grant to prepare a detailed scheme for the listed Spanish City Dome, with another £3.7m award earmarked if this is considered acceptable.
The twin boost for the seafront was welcomed last night by Ben Drury, chairman of Whitley Bay Chamber of Trade, who runs the Cogiva web development business.
He said: “This is exciting news for Whitley Bay. It’s light at the end of the tunnel coming out of the recession and shows that there is money to improve things.
“I was frustrated when the Alletsa ballroom was knocked down with apparently no plans for the site.
“Piece by piece the jigsaw is coming together. Anything which improves the town is fantastic and it is a case of tackling one site at a time.
“The Avenue pub site should be next.”
Another key plot is the mothballed Whiskey Bends site next to Alletsa location, where planning permission given seven years ago for a care home has now lapsed.
The Spanish City Dome closed permanently to the public 13 years ago but it is envisaged that the HLF cash injection will release the building’s commercial potential as the it undergoes major refurbishment for leisure, retail and business enterprise use.
Ivor Crowther, head of HLF North East, said: “This HLF grant will now unlock the potential of Spanish City, encourage private investment, be a catalyst for wider regeneration and in turn create a huge boost to the local economy.”
This grant was awarded through HLF’s new Heritage Enterprise programme which launched in April.
It was set up to tackle “market failure” – where buildings have previously failed to attract investment or realise their commercial potential because the cost of repair has meant that they were not commercially viable.