10 of the biggest mistakes to happen in the North East over recent years

10 of the biggest mistakes to happen in the North East over recent years

Newcastle has seen a massive amount of new builds as developers put their stamp on our city.

But as the old is changed to the new, there are mistakes that have been made.

Planners and bosses don’t always get it right.

And ChronicleLive has come up with a string of projects that have caused controversy or haven’t quite worked out.

With that in mind, here’s our selection of Newcastle’s top 10 mistakes.

But if you can think of any others, please don’t hesitate to write them in the comments.

1. A1 shambles



Traffic at a standstill on the A1 northbound between Morpeth and Alnwick in Northumberland

Probably the biggest mistake of all is not having a full dual carriageway on the A1 from Newcastle to Berwick.

Although transport bosses have unveiled plans to dual part of the road from a stretch from Alnwick to Ellingham with work hopefully starting next year, it doesn’t quite cut the mustard.

Our main route from Geordieland to Scotland is clogged up with tractors and combine harvesters – and leaves us driving along at a snail’s pace.

And ChronicleLive often report on accidents that have occurred on the single carriageways that still remain.

The stretch of road from Alnwick to Ellingham will gain a second lane, as part of a £290m scheme to improve safety and journey times on the major road.

But those in parliament in London shouldn’t forget about the North as they have done in the past.

We need a decent route on the East side of the country through Northumberland. Let’s have one please!

2. Gateshead’s flopped traffic restrictions


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Thousands of upset motorists believe Gateshead Council made a huge mistake with their recently restructured traffic restrictions.

While the council has made a U-turn and abandoned the plan, Liberal Democrat councillor Daniel Duggan said council bosses got the controversial plan to central Gateshead ‘badly wrong’.

The changes proved to be so unpopular with a change.org petition against the restrictions gathering thousands of signatures in a matter of days.

It came after drivers were faced with huge delays after the northbound part of the flyover was closed off to motor vehicles.

The council also removed traffic apart from buses, cyclists and pedestrians from a section of Askew Road where it joins the Tyne Bridge.

All motor vehicles were eliminated from the Bridges Quarter, apart from for access or deliveries. While new cycle routes in the Oakwellgate area and on the approaches to the Tyne Bridge caused uproar among drivers.

The council previously said the works are needed to meet the increasing demand for more space for walking and cycling since the lockdown.

But there has been a U turn, while still saying there needs to be a plan to reduce air pollution.

3. Northumberland County Council headquarters



GVs of Portland Park in Ashington which was to be the new headquarters of Northumberland County Council but which has been now abandoned

Another huge mistake was revealed when scrapped plans to build a new headquarters cost Northumberland County Council £5.53m.

Council accounts revealed the final cost of the abandoned scheme to move County Hall to Portland Park, in Ashington, which was begun by the previous Labour administration but halted when Conservative councillors took power in 2017.

The loss covered the £1.4m paid out in order to cancel the contract for the works.

But it also includes £2.1m which had already been paid out for designs of the new building, and a further £2.1m on work done to prepare the site.

Meanwhile, £17m was set aside to refurbish the Morpeth county hall instead of relocating.

What a waste of money!

4. John Dobson Street camera



The John Dobson Street bus lane in Newcastle city centre. Photo: NCJ Media. Free to reuse for all LDR partners.

It was in 2016 when the infamous bus lane camera on John Dobson Street in Newcastle snared tens of thousands of motorists.

And after a three-year wait, the chief adjudicator at the Traffic Penalty Tribunal upheld a ruling that controversial signage for the northbound bus lane did not give drivers enough warning of the restrictions.

The road was redesigned in 2016 and a camera to spot people driving in the bus lane soon became the most prolific in the country – generating nearly £6,000 a day from penalty charges for Newcastle City Council.

Almost 92,000 drivers were caught out on the northbound side of the road between the camera being installed in February 2016 and shut off in June 2017, after angry drivers complained that signs to warn them they were approaching a bus lane were not good enough.

The Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT) said in summer 2017 that a motorist is entitled to know what lies ahead of them before entering the road, finding that the northbound signage was inadequate but that the council “substantially complies” with Department for Transport rules.

The council then demanded a review of the tribunal’s initial decision to get clarity on exactly what was wrong with the signage.

And in July the TPT’s chief adjudicator has now finally issued a decision to the council, ruling against the local authority.

What a fiasco!

5. Renaming St James’ Park



Lib – St. James Park, now called the Sports Direct Arena. Pic Paul Norris

In 2011 Newcastle United supporters couldn’t believe what they were hearing when Mike Ashley announced the club was changing its name.

St James’ Park has been used by the Magpies since 1892 but fans were stunned when it was revealed it was to be renamed the Sports Direct Arena.

It was a controversial move in a bid to pave the way for it to sell the naming rights to a corporate sponsor.

At the time managing director Derek Llambias said: “These are very difficult economic times and the board have a responsibility to maximise all revenue streams for the benefit of the club.

“Stadium rebranding offers a lucrative way for clubs to secure significant additional income.”

But Geordies are the most loyal supporters in the country and we refused to use its new name.

For us, it will be always be St James’ Park.

6. Whitley Bay funfair



Whitley Bay funfair, corkscrew and ski jump, 1982 (Ernest Storey)

In its heyday Whitley Bay was a haven for holidaymakers and its funfair and Spanish City was a great pull to the area.

But it was a massive shame when the announcement came in 1999 that the funfair was to be demolished.

It was another mistake as Whitley Bay was a holiday hotspot – especially during Scottish Fortnight.

In past decades during the last week of July and the first week of August, Whitley Bay would be host to thousands of Scottish holidaymakers.

When the funfair went, so did much of the town’s trade.

The recent refurbishment of the Spanish City Dome hoped to bring back the visitors but it hasn’t drawn the crowds like the Scottish Fortnight.

7. Royal Quays Outlet Centre



Royal Quays (image Chronicle Live)

It was part of a multi million project but now the Royal Quays shopping outlet is “dying on its feet”.

The North Shields development is built on the site of the former docks. It contains the pre-existing North Shields International Ferry Terminal and the area was renamed Royal Quays in 1990.

But over past years trade has dropped off and many shoppers have stopped going.

Now a section of it could be used for storage after Coun Sandra Graham warned the shopping outlet is “dying on its feet”.

Only last month North Tyneside Council’s planning committee gave permission for 28 units to the north west of the shopping destination to be used for light industrial and storage as well as retail purposes. As part of this, one of the units will be demolished.

While it was not specified how exactly the units would be used the “light industrial” planning category includes office use as well as research and development of products and processes.

A design and access statement submitted to North Tyneside Council, on behalf of applicant North Shields Investment Properties, said the shopping centre had been “performing weakly”

It also claimed that moving away from retail use would benefit nearby North Shields town centre.

It said: “There is a need to change the existing retail use at the Royal Quays as it not only has been performing weakly as a retail outlet centre. It’s out of centre location also has potential negative impacts upon nearby North Shields town centre.

“Therefore, a change of use away from retail would be desirable in planning terms.”

North Tyneside Council’s planning committee agreed and gave the go-ahead to the plans.

8. Students, students and more students



General view of Manor Bank student accommodation, Pandon Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle’s student housing boom has changed the face of the city significantly in recent years.

The city’s university population has grown rapidly – almost doubling over the past two decades.

And while that massive expansion first saw a build-up of the traditional student neighbourhoods like Jesmond, purpose-built tower blocks have popped up across the city to soak up the demand for accommodation.

The students bring a buzz into the city and help grow our economy.

But it’s a split decision if the student accommodation boom is a mistake or not.

Just ask the opinion of a Geordie resident who is proud to live in the city centre!

9. Joe Harvey plaque



Bill Gibbs with the Joe Harvey Plaque
Bill Gibbs with the Joe Harvey Plaque

It was the moment they have been waiting for.

For years die-hard fans had a dream to get a plaque erected in memory of the great former Newcastle United manager Joe Harvey, who last brought home any major silverware.

But it was a mistake that fans had to wait decades to have him remembered.

Joe was at the club as a player, coach and manager. It was under his captaincy that Newcastle won the FA Cup in 1951 and 1952, and under his leadership as manager when the Magpies won the Fairs Cup in 1969.

And the Fairs Club, set up to remember the glory days, raised more than £10,000 for the bronze masterpiece, while sports promotions organisers Steve Wraith and Danny Cox donated £5,000.

And the 5ft by 3ft, half tonne plaque was officially unveiling in April 2014 on the Gallowgate Wall at St James’ Park.

“It is a dream come true,” said Bill Gibbs, founder member of the Fairs Club, who initiated the idea.

“We have been raising cash and holding events to raise the cash for the plaque. And Newcastle United very kindly gave us a substantial amount of money towards it.

“It’s about time that something is in place to honour him.”

10. Newcastle ‘Lego Men’



Gary Whealans from Fawdon, Newcastle who has bought 5 legomen that used to be in place at the Haymarkey Newcastle

They cost more than quarter of a million pounds of public money – but some of them ended up in suburban Tyneside gardens.

Loved or loathed, the Newcastle ‘Lego Men’ were bought by businessmen, investors and people who simply loved the quirky concrete structures, and many popped up as home accessories.

The sculptures formed part of the £270,000 artwork Shoulder to Shoulder at the Haymarket Metro station in Newcastle and were installed in 1999.

However they were removed just nine years later as part of the Metro’s refurbishment and 52 of them were sold by Newcastle City Council with many appearing on online sales site Ebay.

Ex-Newcastle United owner Freddy Shepherd bought 46 of them and five are now in a garden in Fawdon, Newcastle, and another one went to nearby Red House Farm.

The figures by artist Ray Smith were nick-named the ‘Lego Men’ and stand at 6ft 7in tall.

They were sold by Newcastle Council in an auction in 2011 after three years in storage.

The late businessman Mr Shepherd bought the vast majority of them for his Bridon International site at Willington Quay at Wallsend.


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