WORK is about to start on a £150,000 townscape improvement project which sparked a row over plans to get rid of a traditional seaside bandstand.
Anger erupted in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland last year when it was revealed that the upgrade to the Quay Wall area of the town involved the removal of its 1930s bandstand.
County council bosses said they wanted to dismantle it as part of the scheme to “de-clutter” the central piazza area next to the promenade.
A protest petition was signed by 132 people who wanted the bandstand saved, and a public consultation exercise resulted in 84% support for its retention.
Eventually the council relented and dropped the demolition plan, instead opting to give the bandstand a facelift including a new paint job.
Now work is set to begin on the wider improvements to the surrounding Quay Wall area, which is at the heart of Newbiggin’s conservation area.
The project aims to create an improved focal point for the town, and a more open and usable space for community events and activities.
The bandstand revamp has been completed and now the area will get new, high-quality paving, a revised layout, levels and access, new seats and bins and improved lighting. The scheme follows two separate public consultations carried out with the local community last year, the second sparked by the row over the bandstand.
There was also some opposition to the proposed removal of colourful floor mosaics which were installed in the 1990s by local schoolchildren.
However, their poor condition and the way in which they fit with the new public realm scheme led to the conclusion that they should be removed.
They will be captured for posterity by local photographer Jason Thompson.
Yesterday Eva Hartley, who is vice-chairman of local community group Newbiggin Forward, and who organised the bandstand petition, said: “Personally, I have no great objections to the work being done, but I believe it is a bit of a waste of money. The removal of the mosaics is quite sad because the three local schools were involved with their installation, and they have all now closed.
“We believe the photographs of the mosaics should be displayed on some wall space in the piazza area so that visitors can see what used to be there.”
Coun Tom Brechany, the council’s executive member for regeneration, said: “I’m delighted to see this scheme progressing, and believe that it will add real value to the town of Newbiggin. We hope that the resulting improvements will both create an attractive environment for residents and visitors, and lead to further economic and social benefits.”
The work was programmed for September to avoid disruption during the main summer visitor season. It will start next week and take about 10 to 12 weeks to complete.
The project follows the recent opening of Newbiggin’s £3m Maritime Centre, and is linked to a regeneration scheme funded by Go Wansbeck which provides grant funding to 24 local shops for repair and refurbishment work on their fabric and features.
I’m delighted to see this scheme progressing, and believe that it will add real value